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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 April 2007, 19:27 GMT 20:27 UK
Thousands gather to mourn Yeltsin
Mourners with portrait of Yeltsin outside Christ the Saviour Cathedral
Yeltsin led Russia from decades of communism to an era of democracy

Thousands of people have visited the Moscow church where the body of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin is lying in state to pay their respects.

Lines of mourners filed past Mr Yeltsin's open casket as priests chanted liturgies at the gold-domed Christ the Saviour Cathedral.

The former leader died from heart failure on Monday, aged 76.

A state funeral for Mr Yeltsin will be held on Wednesday, which has been declared a national day of mourning.

Former US Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush Snr, and Mr Yeltsin's former political foe Mikhail Gorbachev, are among dignitaries who will attend.

Sombre mood

Mr Yeltsin's body was taken to the cathedral in a black limousine, and greeted by a guard of honour of several hundred soldiers.

Russians give their views on Yeltsin and his legacy

Inside, Mr Yeltsin's widow, Naina, dressed in black, wept quietly alongside her husband's casket, as white-robed Orthodox priests chanted prayers and burned incense.

Members of the public - some weeping and clutching flowers - queued to pay their respects to the man who ushered in a new age of democracy for the country.

"I followed Yeltsin as soon as he appeared I followed him everywhere. He was the first honest and decent president," said 75-year-old Taisiya Shlyonova.

July 1990: Resigns from Communist Party
June 1991: Elected president of Russian republic (in USSR)
August 1991: Rallies citizens against anti-Gorbachev coup, bans Russian communist party
December 1991: Takes over from Mikhail Gorbachev as head of state
1992: Lifts price controls, launches privatisation
October 1993: Russia on brink of civil war, Yeltsin orders tanks to fire at parliament
December 1994: Sends tanks into Chechnya
June 1996: Re-elected as Russian president, suffers heart attack during campaign
1998: Financial crisis, rouble loses 75% of its value
December 1999: Resigns, appoints Vladimir Putin successor

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, who is at the cathedral, says the mood was sombre, not least because the former president's legacy is controversial in today's Russia.

The man who led the overthrow of the Communist system and brought democracy also presided over an economic crisis which left millions of Russians in poverty.

Mr Yeltsin's funeral, which will be broadcast live on national television, will be the first for a head of state sanctioned by the Church since Tsar Alexander III's in 1894.

His body will then be moved to the city's Novodevichy Cemetery, the resting-place of many other eminent Russians.

Mr Yeltsin will be buried close to Raisa Gorbachev, the wife of his great rival and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

The only Soviet leader to be buried in the cemetery is Stalin's successor Nikita Khrushchev, who was ousted in 1964 and died in obscurity. Other Communist Party leaders are buried in Red Square by the Kremlin wall.

I think Yeltsin will go down in history in a very negative way - his policies impoverished the country and tens of millions of its people
Gosha, New York

The BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow says the current administration has given no reason for its choice of funeral arrangements, but each decision is bound to be carefully analysed for what it might say about contemporary Russian politics and the country's modern history.

Mr Yeltsin died from cardiovascular and multi-organ failure 12 days after he was admitted to Moscow's central clinical hospital, medical officials said.

He developed a viral infection after a sightseeing trip to Jordan at the beginning of April, an unconfirmed report on the gazeta.ru website said.

Vladimir Putin pays tribute to Boris Yeltsin

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