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Russia remembers Boris Yeltsin
Putin among leaders paying respect to ex-president on first death anniversary.
Last Modified: 23 Apr 2008 13:06 GMT

A new monument of Yeltsin was also unveiled
on Wednesday [AFP
]

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has attended a graveside ceremony to mark the first anniversary of the death of Boris Yeltsin, his predecessor, praising him for bringing freedom to Russia.
 
Senior Russian officials also attended the ceremony at Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery on Wednesday where a monument of Yeltsin was unveiled.
Putin, who is stepping down in May due to constitutional term limits, said the need for strong presidential power was a lesson taught by Yeltsin.
 
"Today, we live in an open and independent country which is developing in strict adherence to the letter and the spirit of the constitution," he said.
"Presidential power will always be a guarantor of the basic law and of the citizens' rights, [it] will continue to serve the people of Russia, the nation's sovereign interests."

Sombre ceremony

Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexiy II led the church service at the graveside followed by a parade by guards of honour.

A military band played a few bars of the national anthem introduced by Yeltsin, then switched to the Soviet melody that Putin reinstated as Russia's official anthem.

Dmitry Medvedev, who will take over as president, was also at the ceremony.

Critics of Putin accuse him of betraying Yeltsin's legacy by rolling back democratic freedoms, concentrating power in his hands and restoring attributes of the Soviet Union that Yeltsin helped overturn.

Yeltsin, who died aged 76, was a Communist leader who rebelled against his party's rule to become the first president of post-Soviet Russia.

His rule was marked by additional freedoms as well as economic turmoil and political instability that many Russians credit Putin with reversing.

Yeltsin stepped down from the presidency in December 1999 and handed over power to Putin, an ex-KGB spy.

Russia had experienced years of uninterrupted economic growth under Putin who has cited the "turmoil of the 1990s" as a contrast to his rule.

However, Putin has referred to Yeltsin with reverence.

The first anniversary of Yeltsin's death was marked as an event of national importance.

Yeltsin has had a street and a university named after him in his home city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural mountains.

Source:
Agencies
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