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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gryzlov Hands Out Awards to 15 Slovak War Veterans

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia -- State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov started a two-day official visit to Slovakia on Monday, where he was also taking part in events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Slovak capital's liberation by the Red Army during World War II.

"He has come on an important day," Slovak parliament speaker Pavol Hrusovsky told reporters. "It was a good opportunity to remember this ... history."

The Red Army liberated the Nazi-occupied Bratislava on April 4, 1945, after days of fierce fighting.

While in Bratislava, Gryzlov was to hand out 15 awards to Slovak veterans who fought on the Soviet side.

"I highly value that even after 60 years, they have not forgotten us," veteran Michal Rjabik, 85, who fought in what is now Belarus and Slovakia, told reporters as he was arriving for the awards ceremony at the Bratislava Castle.

Gryzlov met with Hrusovsky for talks on economic cooperation and the political situation in both countries.

Gryzlov said he hoped that he had removed his Slovak counterpart's doubts about the level of democracy in Russia. "Democracy is our definite decision," Gryzlov said.

Both officials said there was room for closer economic and trade ties -- mainly in the nuclear and energy sectors.

Slovakia, where communist rule was toppled in 1989, joined the European Union and NATO last year.

Gryzlov met with Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda later in the day. Dzurinda said he was glad to see there was a constructive dialogue between Russia and NATO or the EU, his spokesman Martin Maruska said.