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Putin Decorates Longtime Foreign Minister Lavrov

President Vladimir Putin has awarded Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Russia's senior diplomat for more than a decade, a high state medal for service to the country.

In a decree published on March 23, Putin decorated Lavrov with a first-degree order For Merit To the Fatherland.

Putin signed the decree on March 21, Lavrov's 65th birthday.

Lavrov, foreign minister since 2004, has now received all four degrees of the For Merit to the Fatherland medal.

A career diplomat and former ambassador to the United Nations, Lavrov has been the face of Russia's foreign policy through Putin's first term, a thaw in ties with the West during Dmitry Medvedev's 2008-2012 presidency, and the highly tense period that has followed Putin's return to the Kremlin.

Russia has faced sanctions and condemnation from the United States, Europe, and other countries over its takeover of Crimea a year ago and its support for separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine.

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