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    Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin (L) stands close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in this May 7, 2000 file photo

    Russia Sees 15 Years Since Yeltsin's Handover of Power to Putin

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    Wednesday marks the 15th anniversary of Boris Yeltsin's resignation as the first freely elected Russian president. Opinions on his legacy are divided, as he presided over the complicated political landscape and economic turmoil that ushered Russia into the post-Soviet era.

    MOSCOW, December 31 (Sputnik) A Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) poll published Monday revealed that 85 percent of Russians strongly approved Yeltsin's decision to hand over the reins to Russian President Vladimir Putin on New Year's Eve in 1999.

    Elected by popular vote in June 1991, Yeltsin succeeded Mikhail Gorbachev, who resigned on December 25, and began implementing drastic reforms to enable a transition from socialism to a free market economy.

    Two years into his term, Yeltsin disbanded the Soviet parliament and adopted a new constitution after a referendum held on December 12, 1993. By the decade's end, the war in Chechnya, growing foreign debt, the ruble's collapse and a number of other issues took their toll on Yeltsin, who was suffering from heart disease and alcohol abuse.

    In an unexpected turn of events, Yeltsin announced his resignation in a televised address on December 31, 1999. Then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin took over as acting president, signing a decree the same day guaranteeing Yeltsin immunity from prosecution, as well as extending significant financial benefits to him and his family.

    Yeltsin died of heart failure on April 23, 2007 at the age of 76 after a quiet retirement and a life out of the public eye. He is survived by his widow, Naina, and two daughters.

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    Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, Russia
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