Hundreds of mourners – some weeping, many clutching flowers – filed through a soaring, gold-domed Moscow cathedral today, past the open casket for Boris Yeltsin, paying tribute to a man who brought epochal changes to Russia but left behind a tarnished legacy.
As public viewing began of the body of the first president of post-Soviet Russia, it was unclear how average Russians would mark the passing of the man who transformed their lives for better or worse.
Foreign countries also seemed unsure – many of them designating second-tier dignitaries to come to the funeral, scheduled for tomorrow.
John Mayor will represent Britain while from the United States former presidents George H W Bush and Bill Clinton were to attend.
Yeltsin died of heart failure yesterday aged 76.
“I followed Yeltsin as soon as he appeared. I followed him everywhere. … He was the first honest and decent president,” said Taisiya Shlyonova, a 75-year-old pensioner. Russians queued up under overcast skies to pass through metal detectors and through towering metal doors of the Christ the Savior Cathedral on the banks of the Moscow River.
The gold-domed, hulking edifice is a replica of the original which was blown up by the Soviet authorities in 1931, just a few months after Yeltsin’s birth.