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Yeltsin Delays Awards Ceremony

December 9, 1997

MOSCOW (AP) _ President Boris Yeltsin postponed a Kremlin ceremony to award state prizes Tuesday, saying it was inappropriate on a day when two children killed in a plane crash were being buried in Siberia.

``It is a joy for me that you have been awarded top prizes,″ Yeltsin told the audience, ``but as funerals are under way in Irkutsk, we must, of course, gather a bit later.″

The funerals were held for two young girls who died in a fire when the wings of an An-124 military cargo plane clipped their orphanage before crashing Saturday into an Irkutsk apartment house.

Yeltsin declared a minute of silence to honor the dozens of victims.

Among the 49 award winners were Patriarch Alexy II of the Russian Orthodox Church, pianist Nikolai Petrov, theater director Yuri Lubimov and five air force test pilots. They were to receive the gold star of Hero of Russia.

No date was immediately set for the postponed ceremony.

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