VARIOUS: Tributes from politicians pour in after death is announced of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin
- Title: VARIOUS: Tributes from politicians pour in after death is announced of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin
- Date: 24th April 2007
- Summary: (BN14)WARSAW, POLAND (APRIL 23, 2007) (REUTERS) SOUNDBITE (Polish) FORMER PRESIDENT LECH WALESA, SAYING: "The World has forgotten, but it was him (Yeltsin) who dissolved the USSR. It was physically him who did it, not Gorbachev. If he had not done it, then all of the processes then happening in the world would have stopped and receded. We have to thank Yeltsin for everything we have: the free world, the age of intellect, information and globalisation. The world has all of this thanks to him, so let's bow our heads in his memory and to him."
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- Topics: International Relations
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- Story Text: World leaders pay tribute to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who died on Monday, for bringing freedom and democracy to Russia after decades of totalitarian rule, and pushing through market reforms that, though brutal, have helped to turn Russia into a vibrant economy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday (April 23) declared a day of mourning for former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who died earlier in the day.
Yeltsin ruled Russia from 1991 to the last day of 1999, when he handed over power to Putin. He was the first Russian leader to step down voluntarily.
Russia will pay its respects with a national day of mourning on April 25, Putin said.
"He was the first Russian president. With this title he has for ever entered the history of the country and the whole world," Putin said at the Novo-Ogaryovo presidential residency outside Moscow.
"A man passed away, thanks to whom a whole new epoch was born. New democratic Russia was born, a free state open to the world. The state in which power truly belongs to the people," Putin said.
"We will do everything so that the memory of Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, his noble thoughts, his words: 'save Russia' always serve us as moral and political guidelines," Putin said.
The former leader of Polish Solidarity workers' union and a key figure in toppling communism in Eastern Europe Lech Walesa remembered Yeltsin as a great man, who always made decisions ahead of his time.
Walesa told reporters: "The World has forgotten, but it was him (Yeltsin) who dissolved the USSR. It was physically him who did it, not Gorbachev. If he had not done it, then all of the processes then happening in the world would have stopped and receded. We have to thank Yeltsin for everything we have: the free world, the age of intellect, information and globalisation. The world has all of this thanks to him, so let's bow our heads in his memory and to him."
In Kiev, Ukraine's first post-Soviet leader Leonid Karvchuk paid tribute to Yeltsin, saying he would be remembered as a historic figure.
"Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin is a historic personality. He stood in the first line of those who opened up new life to the countries of the former Soviet Union, who later advocated new relations in world politics, who established new security lines in Europe and the world. This was a personality of immense scale," said Kravchuk.
Kravchuk, Yeltsin and Belarus's first post-Soviet leader Stanislav Shushkevich signed an agreement in 1991 dissolving the Soviet Union.
Speaking at his home in Tbilisi, former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said Yeltsin had done a lot for Russia and Georgia.
"There is a saying, that only good things can be said about those who have died. As for Boris Nikolayevich (Yeltsin) it's impossible not to say anything. He did a lot for Russia, and he was a friend of Georgia, and he was friendly towards all Georgians. He did a lot for Georgia too," said Shevardnadze.
Yegor Gaidar, architect of Russia's market reforms, paid tribute to Yeltsin.
"Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin is a historical figure. He became president at a very difficult time for Russia, after the collapse of the Soviet economy. He, in my view, was a very respected president. We should be thankful to him that developments in the country after 1991, were not the same as they were in 1917, after the collapse of the (Tsarist) regime. He was a person who wanted to see Russia as a free country, and someone who did not think of power as personal thing for himself or his family. He thought Russia a democratic state, and he took responsibility of Russia with a heavy legacy, and I believe he fulfilled his obligations with great dignity," said Gaidar after appearing as a guest at the Ekho Moskvy radio station.
Gaidar, 50, who unleashed economic shock therapy before the dust had settled on the ruins of the Soviet Union, said Yeltsin was a historic figure who tried to bring democratic and economic reforms to Russia.
Gaidar, now heads the Institute for the Economy in Transition. A tubby economist who became reform commissar and acting prime minister under s Yeltsin, Gaidar provoked awe and antipathy for freeing prices in 1992 and for launching the first wave of privatisations after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Former British Prime Minister John Major said: "Yeltsin inherited an incredibly difficult situation and his instincts were absolutely correct - to extend democracy and to introduce a market system. But that was extraordinarily difficult and he tried to do it in extraordinarily difficult circumstances and it was immensely painful for Russia and that what caused so much difficulty for him."
After a meeting with EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in the German town of Meseberg German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters she mourned the death of Yeltsin, whom she called "great friend of Germany".
"We found out about the death of the first president of the Russian federation, Boris Yeltsin, with great sadness. I have expressed my condolences and may say that Boris Yeltsin was an upright fighter for freedom and democracy, for a new alignment of Russia and a true friend of Germany. The pullout of Russian troops was during his time in office and Germany and its people will always remember him as a great friend of Germany. I have expressed my condolences. We are mourning Boris Yeltsin."
Many Russians initially viewed Yeltsin as a hero for dismantling Communist rule. His finest hour came when, in 1991, he clambered onto a tank and raised his fist in defiance of hardline coup plotters who wanted to turn back the clock.
But his economic "shock therapy" cast millions into poverty and his last years in office were marked by chaos, erratic behaviour combined with persistent reports of drunkenness, and bloody conflict with Chechen rebels.
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