Georgia's flamboyant reformer Kakha Bendukidze dies
Georgian statesman Kakha Bendukidze - a top aide to Ukraine's president and a respected champion of economic reforms in his own ex-Soviet republic - has died in London aged 58, supporters said on Friday. British police said Bendukidze was pronounced dead on Thursday after being found lifeless in a London hotel. Although the cause of death has not yet been made public, the police said they were not treating his death as suspicious.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014
Bendukidze recently underwent minor cardiac surgery in Switzerland but was not showing any signs of serious illness, a colleague at the Free University in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, Vato Lezhava, told AFP. A respected reformer and fierce anti-corruption crusader who was Georgia's economy minister a decade ago, Bendukidze fled his home country this year. He feared he might be arrested as have many other former top officials, in a campaign by current authorities that the West sees as politically motivated.
Since May, Bendukidze had been advising Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on ways to overhaul Ukraine's conflict-wracked 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. The news of Bendukidze's death stunned Georgia, with hundreds of people including students and professors lighting candles in his memory Thursday night.
Georgian lawmakers observed a minute of silence on Friday. Saakashvili's rule ended in 2012 when his party was defeated in parliamentary elections by a coalition assembled by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. Bendukidze spearheaded sweeping reforms that saw Georgia become the world's top reformer in 2004-2007, according to the World Bank's "Doing Business" report.