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MOSCOW - Former President Boris Yeltsin, who engineered the final collapse of the Soviet Union and pushed Russia to embrace democracy and a market economy, has died, a Kremlin official said Monday. He was 76.
Kremlin spokesman Alexander Smirnov confirmed Yeltsin's death, but gave no cause or further information. The Interfax news agency cited an unidentified medical source as saying he had died of heart failure.
Although Yeltsin pushed Russia to embrace democracy and a market economy, many of its citizens will remember him mostly for presiding over the country's steep decline.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet president, summed up the complexity of Yeltsin's in a condolence statement minutes after the death was announced. He referred to Yeltsin as one "on whose shoulders are both great deeds for the country and serious errors," according to the news agency Interfax.
Yeltsin was a contradictory figure, rocketing to popularity in the Communist era on pledges to fight corruption — but proving unable, or unwilling, to prevent the looting of state industry as it moved into private hands during his nine years as Russia's first freely elected president.