Putin chokes back tears at Chernomyrdin`s funeral

Former Russian premier Viktor Chernomyrdin died of an undisclosed illness.

Moscow: Former Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was laid to rest after an emotional eulogy by Vladimir Putin.

Chernomyrdin saw Russia through the tumultuous 1990s and engineered the creation of Gazprom, now the world`s biggest gas company. He died on Wednesday at the age of 72 of an undisclosed illness.

The usually tough and sharp-tongued Putin, the current Prime Minister, spoke at his funeral service and at one point he paused and appeared to be struggling to hold back tears.

His voice trembled as he said: "We will miss Viktor Stepanovich. We will hold his memory in our hearts and in our work."

Chernomyrdin served as prime minister under the then President Boris Yeltsin from 1992 to 1998, a period of economic hardship and political turmoil as a bankrupted Russia struggled to recreate itself as a democracy and market economy after the Soviet collapse.

Alexei Miller, the current Gazprom chief executive, praised him for resisting calls to split up the gas supply system and sell off its parts at a time when the country "needed loans like air”.

President Dmitry Medvedev also spoke at the service, where much of Russia`s leadership joined Chernomyrdin`s many relatives in saying their farewells.

Putin, who appeared tired, talked about how hard Chernomyrdin had worked, "without any swaggering or desire for stardom”. Putin ended by calling him "an example for us all”.

Chernomyrdin was buried beside his wife in Moscow`s Novodevichy Cemetery.