Former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, whose career included journalism, diplomacy and spycraft, has died at age 85.

The Kremlin said Friday that President Vladimir Putin has offered condolences to Primakov's family. The cause of death wasn't immediately known.

Primakov had deep experience in the Middle East, where he worked as a correspondent for the Soviet daily Pravda, and both Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Putin used him as point man to try to head off wars with Iraq. As premier, he sought but failed to prevent NATO from bombing Yugoslavia in the war over Kosovo.

But Primakov was more influential at home, and in 1999 was widely seen as a likely successor to Boris Yeltsin as president, before being undermined by negative television coverage orchestrated by supporters of Putin.