World

Yeltsin lies in state, funeral Wednesday

Russians began paying their respects Tuesday to former president Boris Yeltsin, who led their country out of the collapse of the Soviet Union into a turbulent post-Communist era.

Russiansbegan paying their respects Tuesday to former president Boris Yeltsin, who led their country out of the collapse of the Soviet Union into a turbulent post-Communist era.

The coffin of former Russian president Boris Yeltsin is taken inside the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour for a farewell ceremony in downtown Moscow on Tuesday. ((Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press))
Hundreds of mourners lined upoutside Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, whereYeltsin's bodywas brought in a ceremonial procession toliein state ahead of a funeral Wednesday, which hishand-picked successor, Vladimir Putin,declared a day of national mourning.

An honour guard of several hundred soldiers in regimental uniform greeted the arrival ofYeltsin's open casket inside the gold-domed cathedral, whichwas destroyed by the Communists before being rebuilt during his presidency.

A list of foreign dignitaries attending the funeral has not been released.

Yeltsin, who had a history of heart trouble, died of heart failure Monday in a city hospital at the age of76.

Russiansappeared to focustheir feelings for Yeltsin on the euphoric times immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the CBC's Nick Spicer said Tuesday from Moscow.

"Peopleremembered that more than anything else," he said.

A woman stands outside the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow on Tuesday. ((Misha japaridze/Associated Press))
Yeltsin is to be buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery, where many of Russia's most prominent figures are interred, including ousted Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Russia's newspapers were heaped Tuesday with tributespraising the courage ofthe fiery, yetgaffe-prone Yeltsin, who was Russia's first democratically elected leader.

Internationalmedia also recalled Yeltsin's less flattering andless sober moments,as well ashis role in launching Russia's bloody war against rebels in Chechnya.

Boris Yeltsin is shown in this 1991 photo. ((Associated Press))
Yeltsin took office in June 1991 on a wave of high expectations, as he quickly guaranteed the rights to free speech, private property and multi-party elections, and opened the borders to trade and travel.

His popularity sharply declined as he implemented radical economic reforms, a policy that became known as "shock therapy."

Yeltsin created a private sector and opened up the country to private investment, but failed to prevent the looting of state industry as it moved into private hands.

The economic reforms devastated the living standards of much of Russia's population as per capita income fell about 75 per cent during Yeltsin's rule.

He resigned during a dramatic New Year's Eve address Dec. 31, 1999.

U.S. President George W. Bush called Yeltsin a "historic figure who served his country during a time of momentous change," while British Prime Minister Tony Blair remembered him as a "remarkable man who saw the need for democratic and economic reform."

With files from the Associated Press

now