Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who presided over the demise of the Soviet Union and Russia's transition to a free market, has died, the Kremlin said on Monday.
"Boris Yeltsin died in Moscow today," a spokeswoman said by telephone. Yeltsin, 76, died of heart failure, medical sources told Russian news agencies.
Yeltsin managed to bury the Soviet Union without major bloodshed but tens of millions of people were cast into poverty while corruption corroded support for democratic reforms.
"I express the very deepest condolences to the family of the deceased on whose shoulders rest major events for the good of the country and serious mistakes," former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev told Interfax.
"A tragic fate," said Gorbachev, who had bitter relations with Yeltsin. Yeltsin ruled Russia from 1991 to the last day of 1999, when he handed over power to Vladimir Putin.