The first President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, has died aged 76. He became the country’s first elected leader in June 1991 and will be remembered as a man who stood up for democracy.

It was during his tenure in office that homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia.

In his eight years as ruler of Russia he defied a Communist coup, liberalised the country’s economy and ruled in an autocratic fashion followed by his successor Vladimir Putin.

Russian gay activist Nicolas Alexeyev spoke to PinkNews.co.uk from Moscow today about Yeltsin’s legacy:

“He was a man who, risking his life, gave freedom to us, a man, who underpinned democratic values of contemporary Russia.

“The Russian gay community will always remember Boris Nikolaevich Yeltsin as a man who put an end to almost sixty years of criminal prosecution for male homosexual relations.

“The law that he signed in April 1993 came into force on 27th May 1993.

“This day entered into Russian history of LGBT movement. Boris Yeltsin is a whole epoch in Russia’s history.

“He is a man who will always be remembered by our ancestors irrespective of the future development of Russia. His name is forever written into the history of free and democratic Russia.

“When such people as Boris Yeltsin leave this world everything is shaking inside. Democratic Russia is losing its best people. It is sad that no-one is coming to replace them.

As the first President of Russia made enough mistakes during his long political career but he found strength to apologise to his country. Who else left the highest position in the country with his own will? Who else in Russia said sorry for the political mistakes?

“Boris Nikolaevich had courage almost alone not only to destroy totalitarian system but also to ask for forgiveness for everything that was not done properly, for the promises that were not realised.

“It is frightening to lose such people, it is twice more frightening to lose such people in one of the critical turning points of Russia’s history, when the country is once again at the crossroads of democracy and dictatorship.

“Boris Yeltsin gave Russian people freedom, but people, unfortunately, did not learn how to value it.

“Let him rest in peace! Boris Yeltsin will always stay in our hearts.”