A group of undercover Russian spies exposed by the FBI in June have been awarded top Kremlin honours. Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, honoured their controversial work as sleeper agents in the United States by giving them all medals.
“A ceremony took place in the Kremlin today 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,” said Mr Medvedev’s spokesman.
The FBI arrested the 10 men and women including glamorous wannabe property tycoon Anna Chapman in June after a long surveillance operation that embarrassed Russia and caused a diplomatic furore.
Washington deported the spies the following month in a Cold war-style cloak-and-dagger operation that saw them traded on the tarmac of Vienna airport for four men the Kremlin had convicted as Western spies.
Two of those men, Igor Sutyagin and Sergei Skripal, were later given sanctuary in Britain.
The 10 spies have kept a low profile since their return to Russia with the exception of Anna Chapman who has taken a job advising a bank and made a series of bizarre publicity-seeking appearances.
Read also my previous diary: Anna, Russian Spy Denied Entry by Booman