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    Father of the AK-47 receives Russia's top honor

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    Mikhail Kalashnikov, the creator of the AK-47 assault rifle who turned 90 on Tuesday, has received Russia's highest honorary title.

    MOSCOW, November 10 (RIA Novosti) - Mikhail Kalashnikov, the creator of the AK-47 assault rifle who turned 90 on Tuesday, has received Russia's highest honorary title.

    President Dmitry Medvedev awarded him the Hero of the Russian Federation medal at a ceremony in the Kremlin.

    "The Kalashnikov is today one of the best-known Russian words... Such shining creative achievements move our country forward," Medvedev said during the ceremony.

    He described the AK-47 as "an excellent model of Russian weaponry" and "a national brand that makes each citizen proud."

    Accepting the award, Kalashnikov voiced regret that his creation, the world's most widely used rifle, has been often misused.

    "I created a weapon to defend the fatherland's borders. It is not my fault that it was sometimes used where it shouldn't have been. This is the fault of politicians."

    As a WWII soldier Kalashnikov was inspired to design the weapon after being wounded in 1941. While his first attempts were unsuccessful, he was given a position in weapons development, and by 1947 he had perfected his masterpiece.

    Since then, the AK-47 has become the most widespread and famous assault rifle. Used by some 50 armies around the world, as well as countless urban guerrilla movements, it is also featured on the flag of Mozambique.

    However, despite estimated sales of 100 million, Kalashnikov, who lives in the Western Urals city of Izhevsk, claims not to have profited from the AK-47 and receives only a state pension.

    A deputy director of Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport said earlier: "Without doubt, Mikhail Kalashnikov is the world patriarch of small arms and light weapons."

    Igor Sevastyanov told RIA Novosti that Russia had signed a contract with an unnamed North African state for 500,000 AK-103-2s, a newly modified version of the AK-47 capable of firing three-round bursts.

    He also said 10 countries have applied for licenses to construct plants to produce Kalashnikov assault rifles.

    However, despite his global fame, or notoriety, Kalashnikov takes no pleasure in the destructive power he unleashed all those years ago.

    "I'm proud of my invention, but I'm sad that it is used by terrorists," he said on a visit to Germany in 2002. "I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work - for example a lawnmower."

     

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