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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Makes Pilots 'Heroes'

President Boris Yeltsin has awarded the country's highest ranking, Hero of the Russian Federation, to two military pilots who were forced by gunmen to fly a helicopter with 12 kidnapped children last December.

The two men, Colonel Valentin Padalka and Major Vladimir Stepanov, were commandeered by the kidnappers on Dec. 23 when they seized the teenagers. Over the course of five days the helicopter hopscotched to several cities in southern Russia as the four terrorists sought to evade the police.