CORRECTED: Estonian sailors honoured for 1978 French rescue

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Fifteen sailors from Estonia received a belated tribute Tuesday for saving the lives of three Frenchmen on a sinking yacht 32 years ago.

Frederic Billet, France's ambassador to Estonia, told AFP he had awarded the men his country's national maritime medal for their heroism in 1978.

"This is a very moving story. Only last year, over 30 years after the accident, we found the sailors who during the Soviet era saved the lives of a French crew," Billet said.

In a private ceremony, nine of the sailors received their medals in person, one was represented by a relative, and family members of five who have since died collected posthumous awards.

Two of the three French sailors they rescued also attended.

In 1978, as the French yacht "Lonna 4" was sinking off the coast of Algeria, the Soviet cargo ship "Mohni" rushed to the rescue.

The cargo ship's crew were all from Estonia, a nation of 1.3 million which was ruled by the Soviets until 1991 and is now a member of the European Union.

© 2010 AFP

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