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Russian President Marks World-renowned Musician's 80th Birthday

Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a statement praising world-renowned cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich on his 80th birthday.

In a message issued Tuesday, Mr. Putin said Rostropovich proved "that art and morality complement one another."

He also noted that Rostropovich is as famous for his human rights activism as he is for his musical accomplishments.

Mr. Putin was to host a birthday reception at the Kremlin later in the day.

Last month, Rostropovich was treated in a Moscow hospital for an undisclosed illness. President Putin's visit to the facility prompted two Russian news reports that the musician had undergone treatment at the Blokhin Institute - a leading Moscow cancer treatment facility.

The illness forced the former music director of the Washington National Symphony to cancel a planned trip to the United States.

Rostropovich was born in Baku, in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. An avid supporter of human rights and democracy, he left the Soviet Union in the 1970s and went into exile.

He returned to Moscow in 1991 to help oppose a coup attempt by hard-liners.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.