Tbilisi: Georgian statesman Kakha Bendukidze, the architect of the ex-Soviet republic`s liberal economic reforms who was advising Ukraine`s new president, has died aged 58, officials said Friday.
"Georgia lost Kakha," former president Mikheil Saakashvili wrote on his Facebook page. "I am shocked and horrified... A statesman of historic importance has passed away."
Bendukidze`s colleague at Tbilisi`s Free University, Vato Lezhava, told AFP Bendukidze had died late Thursday while on a visit to London.
A respected reformer and fierce anti-corruption crusader, Bendukidze has since May been serving as an aide to Ukraine`s President Petro Poroshenko, who experts say was keen to tap his experience to help with overhauling Ukraine`s economy.
"I express sincere condolences to relatives and loved ones of Kakha Bendukidze as well as millions of those for whom he was and will remain a force behind great changes. R.I.P," Poroshenko said on Twitter.
A scientist before the breakup of the Soviet Union, Bendukidze became an oligarch in the years following its disintegration, eventually becoming the chief of one of Russia`s largest heavy engineering companies, OMZ.
He left business and returned to his native Georgia following the late 2003 popular uprising dubbed the Rose Revolution that saw Saakashvili elected president and became the country`s economy minister.
He held various government posts until 2009, when he started investing in the education sector, founding the Free University, which has since become one of the country`s best.
Saakashvili said that Bendukidze was in the midst of negotiating to take up a "key government post" in Ukraine at the time of his death.
"He believed that by helping Ukraine he serves the Georgian cause," he said.