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Daily Archives: April 24, 2008

Russia praises Yeltsin on first anniversary of death

Russia's political elite gathered yesterday to mark the first anniversary of the death of former president Boris Yeltsin, opening a monument at his graveside, and renaming a street and university in honour of the historic and controversial figure.
Standing at the grave in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin called Yeltsin, who died of a heart attack aged 76, "one of the brightest figures of the 20th century" who reflected "the desire for freedom."
An honour guard and military band accompanied widow Naina Yeltsina, family and high-ranking friends for the unveiling of the memorial, which resembles a wavy Russian flag in red, blue and white.
Among those joining Putin were his successor Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, senior Kremlin administration officials, Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and the head of the FSB secret services, Nikolai Patrushev.
The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexei II, attended, as did leading figures from the theatre.
Well-wishers, who were almost all dressed in black and many of whom carried large bouquets of red carnations, then listened as Orthodox priests chanted prayers around the grave.
In Yeltsin's former home city of Yekaterinburg in the Urals mountains, workers erected a sign reading "Boris Yeltsin Street," state television showed. The Urals State Technical University was also renamed in his honour, the Kremlin announced.
During eight tumultuous years, Yeltsin helped bring down the Soviet Union in 1991, and oversaw painful economic and democratic reforms that dragged Russia into the modern age, while unleashing more than a decade of war to crush an independence movement in Chechnya.
Yeltsin resigned early on December 31, 1999, and handed over to Putin, a former KGB officer who was serving as prime minister and then went on to win a one-sided snap presidential election.
Putin is to step down on May 7, with his handpicked successor Medvedev, who won a controversial presidential election in March, taking over.


Uribe’s cousin turns himself in, amid alleged far-right ties

A cousin of President Alvaro Uribe sought for alleged links to right-wing paramilitary squads turned himself in Tuesday, after Costa Rica denied him asylum at its embassy.
Mario Uribe surrendered to Attorney General officials at the embassy, where he went to in the morning and waited for nine hours for an answer to his political asylum request.
The Costa Rican Foreign Ministry turned him down, saying his asylum bid was "inadmissible," and stressing that the "historical tradition of asylum must not be defiled" by somebody charged with promoting outlawed armed groups.
The former lawmaker was escorted out of the embassy and driven away in a van amid a throng of reporters and human rights activists who were demanding Costa Rica give him up.
Uribe was taken to a holding facility at the Attorney General's office.
President Uribe said in a statement that he was in "pain" over his cousin's arrest, but said that would neither interfere with his responsibilities nor impede "other branches of government" from carrying out their duties.
"I assume this pain with patriotism," he said.
Mario Uribe presided over Colombia's senate until October 2007, when a Supreme Court investigation into ties between the paramilitaries and politicians uncovered information linking him to land purchases from the paramilitaries.
The investigation has linked 62 politicians to the paramilitaries. Of those, 31 former or current legislators have been jailed.
One of the main witnesses against Mario Uribe is Jairo Castillo (nicknamed 'Pitirri'), a former paramilitary fighter who took refuge in the United States.
Castillo claims that Mario Uribe met several times with leaders of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) to help take over land in northern and north-eastern Colombia.
The current president of Colombia's Congress, Nancy Gutierrez, is also being investigated for alleged paramilitary ties.
The US-based Human Rights Watch earlier issued a statement urging Costa Rica to turn over Uribe to Colombian authorities.
"It's utterly absurd for Mario Uribe, one of Colombia's most powerful politicians, to claim he is somehow a victim who needs asylum," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.
"On the contrary, Colombia's judicial authorities deserve international support in investigating paramilitaries' infiltration of the political system."
The paramilitaries are far-right militias formed in the 1980s to protect wealthy Colombian landowners against leftist guerrillas, and have been accused of drug-trafficking and atrocities against civilians.