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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sakharov Birth Marked With Appeals for Unity

Russia's democrats marked the 75th anniversary of Andrei Sakharov's birth Tuesday with calls for unity in the presidential elections to prevent the Communists from once more taking power in Russia.

President Boris Yeltsin called Sakharov, the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize winner and inventor of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, "the first teacher for me and for all of Russia," Itar-Tass reported.

Sakharov, who spent seven years in internal exile at Gorky for his human rights activities, taught Russia "to learn democracy without textbooks, how to build a democratic Russia," Yeltsin said after laying flowers on Sakharov's grave in Moscow's Vostryakovskoye Cemetery on Tuesday.

With his comments, Yeltsin sounded an appeal to Russia's democratic forces as the presidential elections approach. He met later in the day with exiled human rights leader Yury Orlov, who founded the famous Moscow Helsinki group with Sakharov and others in 1976.

Yeltsin assured Orlov that human rights were a priority of his administration. The president has come under attack for his human rights record since he ordered federal troops into Chechnya in December 1994.

Yeltsin also told Orlov that the Commission on Human Rights once headed by Sergei Kovalyov, a personal friend of Sakharov, had resumed its work at full strength. Vladimir Kartashkin, a lawyer, will head the commission.

Events were planned throughout Moscow for what would have been Sakharov's 75th birthday, including a concert at the Moscow Conservatory and the opening of an exhibition at the State Public Historical Library.