Understand, I did serve on an Honor Guard during my enlisted days; but considering who is being honored here and his main contribution to the Motherland, I still think it would have been more appropriate to arm them with AKs instead of SKS rifles. For one, there is no need to demill them (ours were all functional); the only reason that is usually done is for drill team rifles or honor guards involving minors. Secondly, there is no major difference in the functioning of a AK versus an SKS; plus everyone in the Russian military knows how to use a Kalashnikov.It's not unusual for military honor guards or parade units to use older service rifles VS current issue weapons. We see it in our own military, when Garand's came out drill units use Springfield's for years, same with Garand's when the M14 was issued and even to day M14's over AR's. Lots of reasons for it, many times they are modified so live ammo cannot be used in them (why do that to a new issue weapon) many times it is simply due to drill and parade routines are made for specific weapons and work best with them and they do not wish to retrain everybody or re-write things and break tradition.
I do agree however that it would have been a travesty if the 21 gun salute would have been given with anything other then a AK47.