In March 1999, Mr Primakov attempted to prevent Nato strikes against Yugoslavia. He famously ordered his pilot to turn around midway across the Atlantic while en route to the United States on an official visit, after learning that Washington had decided to launch the air raids. The incident became known as "Primakov's loop".
But Mr Primakov's stint as prime minister was short lived. He was sacked in 1999 by President Boris Yeltsin, who reportedly became fearful of his rising popularity. Mr Primakov signalled his intention to run in the 2000 presidential election, but dropped out when Kremlin powerbrokers united around Vladimir Putin. In 2003, he once again travelled to Iraq and met Saddam Hussein in an attempt to prevent war, this time at Mr Putin's request. But three days later a US-led offensive began.
In later life, Mr Primakov headed a business lobby group and was respected as one of Russia's leading elder statesmen.