The Kremlin says that Yevgeny Primakov, an economist who served as Russia's prime minister in 1998-99, has died aged 85.
Primakov was premier under President Boris Yeltsin and had also served as foreign minister.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies, "He was a statesman, scientist, politician. He has left behind a great legacy."
Peskov said President Vladimir Putin "is sending his profound condolences to the family and friends of Yevgeny Maximovich, as well as all people who knew him."
Known for his aggressive diplomatic stance, Primakov is remembered for ordering his U.S.-bound plane to turn around over the Atlantic after he learned from Vice President Al Gore that NATO had begun a bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999.
Primakov called the bombing an "enormous historic mistake." The famous midflight turnaround is considered by many to be a watershed moment in Russia's foreign policy.
Based on reporting by AFP and Interfax