Giant monument to Yeltsin is unveiled on anniversary of his birth

President Dmitry Medvedev unveiled a huge monument to his predecessor Boris Yeltsin yesterday, praising him for leading Russia through its difficult years after the Soviet Union's collapse.

The 33ft marble obelisk was unveiled in Mr Yeltsin's hometown of Yekaterinburg on the 80th anniversary of his birth.

Mr Yeltsin was aged 76 when he died in April 2007 and is buried in Moscow's Novodevichy Cemetery. His admirers paid their respects yesterday by laying flowers at his grave, a monument with billowing stripes of white, blue and red representing the flag he raised over the Kremlin in a newly independent Russia in 1991.

Mr Yeltsin's legacy remains controversial in Russia, with some admiring him for promoting civil freedoms and democracy and others despising him for the corruption and economic suffering that marked his presidency.

Masha Lipman, a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Centre, said Mr Yeltsin should be given credit less for what he created than for what he destroyed. Ms Lipman said: "Communism, the inhumane political order that existed in Russia for 70 years, was destroyed in 1991, and it was Yeltsin and his reforms that made it irreversible."

Mr Medvedev said Russia should be thankful the changes Mr Yeltsin brought the country.