Putin pays tribute to Yeltsin as "example to us all"

Other News Materials 23 April 2008 16:31 (UTC +04:00)

President Vladimir Putin honoured his predecessor Boris Yeltsin on the first anniversary of his death Wednesday as "a strong, courageous leader of Russia", reported the dpa.

Ex-KGB agent Putin, 55, who was plucked from obscurity by Yeltsin to succeed him in 1999, remembered his former mentor as "daring and resolute."

"In this sense," Putin said Wednesday, "Yeltsin was an example to us all and such a strong, principled position from the head of state, I am sure will be a standard for the future."

Top government officials and Yeltsin's wife and daughter remembered Yeltsin with the unveiling of a monument at his grave in Moscow Novodyevichye Cemetery.

The abstract sculpture of the Russian tricolours was said to be symbolic of the strong impression yet highly ambiguous regard for which he will be remembered.

Outside of Russia, Yeltsin is often most associated for his actions in standing atop a tank to block an attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in the summer of 1991.

The attempted coup was followed by the peaceful unravelling of the Soviet state which Putin among others have called the "greatest tragedy ever" to befall the country. Many blame Yeltsin for the chaos and rampant corruption that accompanied the privatization of the 1990s.

"The turbulent nineties were a time of sweeping changes and brave, exceptional people, capable of going against the current, calling for new goals and bringing the masses behind them. ... Yeltsin was without exaggeration one of these unique people," Putin said, praising his predecessor.

Yeltsin's political legacy remains contradictory, but as liberals bemoan the squeezing of personal freedoms under Putin eight years in office many recall Yeltsin's strong stand for democratic rights.

"Russia's first president introduced freedom of speech, private property and the possibility of living as we wish without a dictatorship of the state," newspaper Novaya Vremyna wrote in commemoration Wednesday.