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COSMONAUTS GET HEFTY BONUSES FOR TIME IN SPACE

Two cosmonauts who returned from space this week after months in orbit will get hefty ruble bonuses and new cars, a newspaper reported Friday.

But the cosmonauts, who watched from space as their country splintered and abandoned communism, are in for another shock: the low value of the ruble.Sergei Krikalev and Alexander Volkov were the last two Soviet cosmonauts to return from space, where they circled the globe aboard space station Mir.

When Krikalev blasted off May 18, the ruble was worth as much as $2. It's worth about a penny now. And the cost of living has skyrocketed since Jan. 2, when Russia lifted price controls on most goods.

Still, the cosmonauts fared pretty well compared with the average Russian worker, who earns about 1,600 rubles a month.

Krikalev will get 150,000 rubles - about $1,500, the daily newspaper Izvestia said in a brief page-one story.

Volkov, who was in space about five months, will get 75,000 rubles.

Russia will give each a Volga automobile.

The cosmonauts returned Wednesday with a German test pilot, Klaus-Dietrich Flade, who also will get a "valuable" gift from the Russian government, Izvestia said.

When the 34-year-old Krikalev blasted off, the Soviet universe had not yet imploded. Mikhail S. Gorbachev was president, the hammer-and-sickle still flew over the Kremlin, and the Communist Party held power.

All that changed with the failed August coup by hard-line Communists. Gorbachev fell, Boris Yeltsin ascended, and the Soviet Union broke up. Even Krikalev's hometown of Leningrad renamed itself St. Petersburg.