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Soviet era dissident dies in US

world Updated: Jun 20, 2011 00:50 IST

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Soviet dissident Yelena Bonner, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov and tireless critic of Vladimir Putin, has died aged 88, friends and relatives said on Sunday.

A pediatrician by training but a historic figure in life, Bonner died in Boston after undergoing heart surgery for a third time, her friend and fellow rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva said.

After a Boston ceremony, she will be laid to rest next to her husband at Moscow’s Vostryakovo Cemetery, her daughter said in a statement issued in the United States.

Rights activists remembered Bonner as a tireless fighter for Soviet freedoms who became so disillusioned with the course taken by modern Russia that she spent her last years in US.

“I am still stunned that our youth do not remember who Sakharov is. Unfortunately, Bonner is even less known,” said Alexeyeva.

Bonner was raised during the bloodiest years of Joseph Stalin’s atrocities. Her father was executed in 1938 when she was 14 and her mother was sent to a labour camp for eight years. She still joined the Communist Party as a young adult before losing her faith in the system for good when Soviet forces invaded the then Czechoslovakia in 1968.

After marrying the pioneering nuclear scientist Sakharov in 1972, she accepted his Noble Peace Prize at an Oslo awards ceremony three years later. He died in 1989. “I do not like being referred to as the wife or widow of Sakharov,” she said in one interview aired on Sunday’s on Russia’s NTV.

“I am my own person,” she said.