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Russia: Thousands Pay Last Respects To Okudzhava

Moscow, 18 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - Thousands of Russians today paid their last respects to singer and poet Bulat Okudzhava, who died last Thursday at the age of 73 during a trip to Paris.

Among the cultural and political elite, attending the memorial ceremony at Moscow's Vakhtangov Theatre, where Okudzhava's body was lying in state, were First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov.

In a telegram of condolences to Okudzhava's relatives, President Boris Yeltsin said the poet was " a spiritual mentor to people of different generations", whose words "carried freedom, taught democracy".

Okudzhava, who had a dedicated following throughout Russia, was admired for his dissident lyrics and soft melodies, accompanied usually on accoustic guitar. He will be buried tomorrow in a private ceremony at Moscow's Vagankov cemetery, where Vladimir Vysotsky, Russia's other great poet-singer, is also buried.