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Yeltsin dies in Moscow

Boris Yeltsin, Russia's first (some would say Russia's only) democratically-elected President in 1,000 years, died yesterday in Moscow from heart failure. Here is an irreverent photo I took of him in 1999, shortly before he left office, while he was playfully scolding a journalist. I met him twice, and both times I found him boisterous but very genial.

Yeltsin was a dedicated reformer, but left power with a mixed record: he lead Russia forward in democracy and free speech, but he also moved too hastily in privatization and it was he who started the wars in Chechnya. Still, I find it telling that his old political enemy Vladimir Zhirinovsky said yesterday that Russia "was never freer than it was under Mr. Yeltsin."

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