Moscow: President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday handed top state honours to the Russian spies deported from the United States in July in the biggest spy scandal since the Cold War, the Kremlin said.
"A ceremony took place in the Kremlin on Monday to hand top state honours to a number of foreign intelligence service (SVR) employees, including the spies who were working in the United States and returned to Russia in July," Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said in a statement on Russian news agencies.
No television footage or pictures have so far been released of the ceremony, which came on the same day as another ceremony where Medvedev received the credentials of new foreign ambassadors.
The group of 10 spies, many of whom had been working for years undercover in the United States as sleeper agents, returned to Russia in a sensational spy swap that saw Moscow send four Russian convicts to the West.
They included the glamorous Anna Chapman, who became a figure of international notoriety and mysteriously resurfaced earlier this month at a space launch at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who served as a KGB agent in East Germany, has said that he has met the spies and even sung patriotic songs with them. He blamed "traitors" for blowing their cover.
Many ex-KGB spies have gone on the record slamming the shoddy and apparently antiquated spycraft of the 10, who were working for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), a successor of the Soviet KGB.
First Published: Monday, October 18, 2010, 23:51