The former prime minister of the UK, John Major and Viktor Yanukovych, the prime minister of Ukraine, were also scheduled to attend Wednesday’s service which will culminate in Yeltsin’s burial at the landmark Novodivechy Cemetery.
Russians queued in their thousands on Tuesday to pass by Yeltsin’s coffin in the Christ the Savior Cathedral on the banks of the Moscow River. Many lit candles and said prayers.
Despite being a key figure in his country’s move to democracy, Yeltsin’s legacy was also seen as being tainted by incomplete reforms and economic mismanagement that pushed millions of Russians into poverty.
Jonah Hull, Al Jazeera’s Moscow correspondent, said that while it may have come as something of a surprise that so many Russians wanted to pay their respects to Yeltsin, it was also a reflection of the key role he played in his country’s history in the early 1990s.
He said that Russians have had seven years since Yeltsin retired from the presidency in 2000 to recover from the adverse effects of his economic policies.
|Obituary: Boris Yeltsin|
Officials estimated that around 4,000 people, mostly middle-aged or older, had paid their respects by early evening.
“I followed Yeltsin as soon as he appeared, I followed him everywhere … he was the first honest and decent president,” Taisiya Shlyonova, a 75-year-old pensioner, said.
|Despite his flaws many Russians see Yeltsin|
as a key figure in their country’s history [AP]
“People saw their difficulties in adapting to a new way of life as [being] the blunders of the country’s leader. And as people no longer had fear, the head of state was ostracised by just about everyone.”
Moskovsky Komsomolets said: “He was president of Russia for eight and a half years and not once … did he stifle the freedom of the press. Because of that we can now publish what we think.”