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Siberian girl who asked Putin for dress to see New Year in Moscow

IRKUTSK, December 17 (RIA Novosti) - The nine-year-old Siberian girl invited to meet the New Year in Moscow by the Russian prime minister has been bought a ticket to the capital by local authorities after a row over her trip was resolved.

Dasha Varfolomyeevaya called Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during his televised question and answer session on December 4 to ask for a new dress. In reply, Putin invited the girl, from a remote village in the East Siberian republic of Buryatia, to meet the New Year in Moscow.

"It is nearly New Year," Dasha said. "We live on my granny's pension, and there is no work in the village. Me and my sister dream about new dresses. I want to ask you for a dress like Cinderella's. Please be a kind wizard for us on New Year."

New Year is the major commercial and social winter holiday in Russia. Orthodox Christmas falls on January 7, but is an entirely religious holiday.

"I invite you and your sister, and your granny as well, to all meet the New Year in Moscow. We will deal with the presents then," Putin replied.

He also added that, "I think it would be right for you to think about not only what you need at New Year, but also what your grandmother needs."

The girl's mother told Russian media that straight after the program, local officials called her to promise that the republic would pay for return tickets to Moscow for Dasha, her sister, her parents, and her grandmother.

However, a few days later, they had a rethink on their generous offer and said that only Dasha and her sister, Anya, would go to Moscow. The sisters were to be sent to the capital with a group of children that the republic had already planned to send to Moscow for New Year. Two other children would simply be removed from the list and Dasha and Anya would take their place.

A row then broke out when Dasha subsequently said that she would not go to Moscow as she felt sorry for the children whose place she was to take.

The dispute was resolved on Wednesday when local officials announced that they would pay for return plane tickets for Dasha, Anya, and their mother, as well as accommodation. They are to leave for Moscow on December 24. A return ticket to Moscow costs around $725 for an adult and $500 for a child.