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Putin confers Order of St. Catherine upon widow of first Russian president

March 14, 18:36 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The award has been given to Naina Yeltsina for her "great contribution to socially important humanitarian programs and active participation in charity activities"

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Naina Yeltsina

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Naina Yeltsina

© Sergei Bobylev/TASS

MOSCOW, March 14. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has conferred the Order of Saint Catherine the Great Martyr upon Naina Yeltsina, widow of the first Russian President Boris Yeltsin, at a reception in the Kremlin.

The award is for her "great contribution to socially important humanitarian programs and active participation in charity activities."

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier on Tuesday the award matched best her role and achievements.

At a special reception at the St. Alexander Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace on the occasion of Naina Yeltsina’s 85th birthday Putin described her as a sample of modesty and spiritual generosity.

"We all feel tremendous respect for you. We honor you as wife of Russia’s first president and, of course, as an invariably kind and tactful person, and as a sample of modesty, spiritual generosity and dignity obvious to entire society," Putin said. "Such qualities are always of great value and are appreciated everywhere, particularly so during hard times, periods of fundamental change, when people feel an acute need for understanding and support."

"You have been by Boris Yeltsin’s side for more than half a century. Together with him you walked through all hardships, thorny days and days of triumph. During all twists and turns of your common destiny you always took care of the family and held the fort," Putin said, addressing Naina Yeltsina.

He recalled that the wife of Russia’s first president mostly sought to dodge publicity.

"But on many dramatic occasions - we all know them and remember them well enough - when Boris Yeltsin needed your public support, you managed to explain the current events clearly, truthfully and, what is most important, with invariable respect for the people," Putin said. He believes that Naina Yeltsina’s words "always expressed sincere compassion for other people’s fates and for this reason they always evoked a response from their hearts."

'I’ve never thought there was an order in store for me'

As she received the award, Yeltsina said the state decoration was a great surprise for her.

"You’ve arranged for such a great holiday. I’ve never thought there was an order in store for me," Yeltsina said, adding that she felt very emotional and excited.

"The status of such a high government award requires a tremendous scale of effort. It is clear to me that I was doing my utmost throughout my life and today, together with the Presidential Center (Yeltsin Center) in Yekaterinburg we are trying to do good things," Yeltsina said.

"I’ve never expected that I would get a chance to feel as a member of a young team of very clever people who had created that center and who are doing all in their powers today to make the Presidential Center in Yekaterinburg a center of attraction that will be drawing people of different ages, educational backgrounds and views."

"Of course, I can only make promises I will be working very hard as long as I can endure," she said.

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