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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 April 2007, 19:51 GMT 20:51 UK
Yeltsin is laid to rest in Moscow
Orthodox priests conduct the funeral of Boris Yeltsin
It was the first church funeral for a Kremlin leader since 1894

Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin has been buried in Moscow in front of weeping relatives and respectful dignitaries during a state funeral.

Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev and John Major joined the funeral service at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Mr Yeltsin's coffin was then carried through streets lined with mourners to Novodevichy cemetery for burial.

Mr Yeltsin was Russia's first elected president, leading it to independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

During his time in office, he presided over huge changes and his legacy remains controversial for some.

He died from heart failure on Monday, aged 76.

Wednesday has been declared a day of national mourning.

Grandiose ceremony

Mr Yeltsin's weeping widow and daughters spent a minute stooped over his open coffin, before its lid was screwed down and it was lowered into a plot at the Novodevichy cemetery.

Three gun volleys were fired and a military band played the Russian national anthem.

Boris Yeltsin's wife Naina throws earth into his grave

Ahead of the funeral, Mr Yeltsin's body had been laid out in the city's main cathedral since Tuesday. Four members of the Kremlin Guard kept watch over the coffin, as thousands of ordinary Russians filed past.

There followed a religious ceremony held in the imposing cathedral, with its marble and gold domes, which was rebuilt under Mr Yeltsin after being demolished during Soviet rule.

Two dozen white-robed priests led the service showing the full splendour of the Russian Orthodox church.

Among those present were President Vladimir Putin and Mr Yeltsin's predecessor, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Two former US presidents - Bill Clinton and George Bush Snr - were also attending the ceremony, along with former UK Prime Minister Sir John Major and the Duke of York.

A priest read a personal statement from the head of the church, Patriarch Alexy II, in which he recalled how Mr Yeltsin's fate was linked to that of his country.

"The destiny of Boris Nikolayevich reflected the whole dramatic history of the 20th Century."

He said Mr Yeltsin had answered Russia's call for freedom.

Russians give their views on Yeltsin and his legacy

"At this time, the desire of our people to live in freedom was growing ever stronger. Boris Nikolayevich felt this desire and helped to bring it about. Being a strong character he took on responsibility for the country at a difficult and dangerous time of radical change."

After the ceremony, Mr Yeltsin's coffin was then drawn on a gun carriage to the cemetery through the streets of Moscow, which were strewn with carnations and lined with mourners.

Legacy debated

He was buried alongside actors and writers, instead of being laid to rest in Red Square like other former Soviet leaders.

The symbolism surrounding Mr Yeltsin's death has been deliberately unlike that of past Soviet leaders, says the BBC's Richard Galpin in Moscow.

The original cathedral where his body has been lying in state was blown up by the Soviets and the site used for a swimming pool.

YELTSIN KEY DATES
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

Mr Yeltsin's funeral was the first for a head of state sanctioned by the Church since Tsar Alexander III's in 1894.

"By his strength, he helped the restoration of the proper role of the Russian Orthodox Church in the life of the country and its people," said Church spokesman Metropolitan Kirill.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes says the former president's legacy remains controversial in today's Russia.

Many people feel that he oversaw the terrible economic crisis in Russia in the late 1990s and started a very unpopular war in Chechnya, our correspondent adds.

Mr Yeltsin also oversaw the rise of a class of super-rich oligarchs and huge disparity in wealth in Russia.

But others remember Mr Yeltsin fondly, and say the democracy he established has been curtailed by his successor President Putin.


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