UK & World News

  • 24 December 2013, 9:23

AK-47 Inventor Kalashnikov Dies Aged 94

Mikhail Kalashnikov, the designer of the world's most widely used firearm, has died at the age of 94.

The AK-47 - "Avtomat Kalashnikov" - was created in 1947 when he was in his 20s two years after the end of World War Two and has sold an estimated 100 million worldwide.

General Kalashnikov died in a hospital in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtia republic where he lived, according to a spokesman for the republic's president.

The weapon has become favoured by guerrillas and terrorists, as well as with soldiers of many armies.

But he often said he felt personally untroubled by his contribution to the bloodshed.

In 2007, he said: "I sleep well. It's the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence."

Russian President Vladimir Putin praised him, saying the Kalashnikov rifle "is a symbol of the creative genius of our people".

Over his career, he was decorated with honours including Hero of Socialist Labour, Order of Lenin and the Stalin Prize.

The weapon's suitability for jungle and desert fighting made it ideal for insurgents backed by the Soviet Union, and Moscow not only distributed the AK-47 widely, but also licensed its production in some 30 other countries.

At a ceremony marking the assault rifle's 60th anniversary, Gen Kalashnikov said: "During the Vietnam War, American soldiers would throw away their M-16s to grab AK-47s and bullets for it from dead Vietnamese soldiers."

A bronze bust has been put up in his native village of Kurya, in the Siberian region of Altai.

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