Putin pays rich tributes to Yeltsin at memorial unveiling ceremony

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Moscow, April 23 (UNI) Outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin today paid rich tributes to late former president Boris Yeltsin at a ceremony to unveil a monument on his first death anniversary.

''The turbulent 90s were a time of sweeping changes and brave, extraordinary people, characters capable of going against the current, calling for new goals and bringing the masses behind them,'' Mr Putin said after inaugurating the memorial at the Novodyevichye Cemetery here, adding ''Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was without any exaggeration one of these exceptional people.'' ''He followed a difficult path as a politician and as a citizen.

He had to make many difficult choices, but his path was as unique as the destiny of our country,'' he noted.

Yeltsin's widow Naina Yeltsina, their two daughters, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II, President-elect Dmitry Medvedev and several top government officials were present at the unveiling ceremony.

Alexy II blessed the new monument-- an abstract stone sculpture painted with the colours of the Russian flag-- to Yeltsin.

It was created by sculptor Georgy Frangulyan at the request of Russia's first president's family.

Frangulyan was also the creator of monuments to Peter I (Antwerp), Alexander Pushkin (Brussels), Empress Elizabeth (Baltiisk), Bulat Okudzhava (Moscow) and Aram Khachaturyan (Moscow) and of the Crucifixion Sculpture in St Francis Cathedral in Italian Ravenna.

Yeltsin, who abruptly transferred power to Mr Putin eight years ago, died on April 23 last year at the age of 76.

Yeltsin's name was crowned with immortality in Urals city of Yekaterinburg, where he had studied and worked for the Soviet Communist Party for a long time. Boris Yeltsin Street was named after him and his name was given to the Ural State Technological University.

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