Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has hailed Eduard Shevardnadze’s “great contribution to perestroika policies”.
Shevardnadze, who has died at the age of 86, was Gorbachev’s foreign minister until the collapse of the USSR in 1991.
Speaking to Russian media, Gorbachev described Shevardnadze as a man of “many talents” and spoke of his ability to communicate with people at all levels of society.
After the break-up of the USSR, Shevardnadze became head of state of the newly-independent Georgia in 1992. He was formally elected president in 1995.
Shevardnadze has been credited with leading Georgia out of instability and civil war. His presidency, however, was dogged by allegations of corruption.
He was forced to resign amid mass public protests over alleged voting irregularities during the 2003 election – the so-called Rose Revolution, which brought Mikheil Saakashvili to power.
After leaving office, Shevardnadze spent his final years in quiet retirement in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has offered his “deep condolences to [Shevardnadze’s] friends and relatives and to the whole Georgian people”.