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Kalashnikov rebrands its AK-47 killing machine as a 'weapon of peace'

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With corporate makeover, Russian gun maker aims to be as internationally recognizable as Apple

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Kalashnikov, the company behind one of the world's most ubiquitous killing machines, has officially rebranded itself as an ambassador of "peace and calm." As The Guardian reports, the Russian gun manufacturer unveiled a new logo and promotional campaign this week in Moscow, where company representatives described Osama bin Laden's favorite rifle as a "weapon of peace."

"It precipitated not just a technological but a social revolution," reads a voiceover in the company's new marketing video. "Freedom movements in Africa, Asia, and Latin America could at last fight back against professional colonial armies. The AK-47 gave them the chance to demand rights and achieve justice. This is a weapon which helped people defend their families and futures, and demand the right to a peaceful future."

A second video depicts Russian special forces using AK-47s to "liquidate" terrorists in Russia's restive North Caucasus region. It ends with the tagline: "Kalashnikov: promoting peace and calm."

The company's rebrand as "Kalashnikov Concern" comes as Western economic sanctions continue to weigh on the Russian economy. American sanctions, levied earlier this year over Russia's involvement in Ukraine and Crimea, have halted shipments of AK-47s to the US and Canada, including a major contract to ship 200,000 Kalashnikovs every year to the two countries.

Instead, the company has focused its efforts on Asia, Kalashnikov CEO Alexei Krivoruchko told reporters. Kalashnikov Concern will also sell a line of hunting knives and sportswear "for shooting sports and hunting." Sergei Chemezov, head of the state-owned Russian Technologies, said Tuesday that he wants the brand to be as internationally recognizable as Apple. (Russian Technologies holds a controlling stake in Kalashnikov.)

At this week's Moscow event, women in tight black dresses showed off the newly designed AK-47 cartridges as a small orchestra played Russian wartime classics, The Moscow Times reports. The company's CEO was introduced by a man wearing World War II-era Soviet military uniform.

The company's signature AK-47 gun was created in 1947 and quickly became a mainstay among Russian forces, guerillas, and terrorist groups across the world. An estimated 100 million rifles have been sold worldwide, with the company saying that 140,000 have been sold this year alone — twice last year's total. Mikhail Kalashnikov, the gun's inventor, died last year at the age of 94. He had publicly expressed pride in his invention, though in a May 2012 letter to the Russian Orthodox Church he admitted to feeling "spiritual pain" over the deaths it had caused.

"I keep having the same unsolved question," Kalashnikov wrote, "If my rifle claimed people's lives, then can it be that I... a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?"