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Soviet-Era Dissident Gleb Yakunin Dies After Long Illness

Prominent Russian priest and veteran member of the Moscow Helsinki rights group Gleb Yakunin. (file photo)

Gleb Yakunin, a prominent Russian priest and a veteran member of the Moscow Helsinki rights group has died after a long illness in Moscow.

He died at the age of 80 on December 25.

Yakinun was also known as a former dissident who had fought for freedom of conscience in the former Soviet Union.

In 1965, Yakunin – then priest in the city of Dimitrov near Moscow -- had argued that the Church must be liberated from the total control of the state.

In 1970s he created the Christian Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers in the USSR, and published hundreds of articles about the suppression of religious freedom in the country. Subsequently, Yakunin was arrested and convicted for anti-Soviet propaganda.

He spent several years in a prison and then a labor camp and exile. He was given an amnesty in 1987.

Yakunin was a member of the Duma, the lower house of parliament from 1990 through 1999.