Putin awards Rostropovich a medal for "service to the fatherland"

President Vladimir Putin has awarded renowned conductor and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich a Russian state medal, the Kremlin said Monday.

Putin signed a decree awarding Rostropovich the Order of Service to the Fatherland, First Degree, for his "outstanding contribution to the development of world music and many years of creative activity," the presidential press service said.

Rostropovich, 79, was hospitalized earlier this month for unspecified reasons first in Paris and then in Moscow. His hospitalization was revealed when the Kremlin said Putin had visited him in a Moscow hospital on Feb. 6.

Two Russian newspapers later reported that Rostropovich was being treated at Russia's leading cancer clinic, but aides declined to comment on the reports, reports AP.

His spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment Monday on his health or the honor.

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