Russia honours its spies

 “Intelligence agents who worked in the US and returned to Russia in July” were among staff members from Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service to receive awards at a Kremlin ceremony, Natalya Timakova, the president’s spokeswoman, told Russian news media. She would not say which awards were given out or whether all 10 of those arrested this summer were among the recipients.

The agents, who were arrested in the suburbs of New York, Boston and Northern Virginia, have been widely lampooned in the West as bumbling caricatures of a bygone era. For over a decade they used false names, invisible ink and other vestiges of the cloak-and-dagger era to gain access to the type of information more easily downloaded from the Internet. In the end they were not even charged with espionage.

In Russia, however, they have been praised by Russia’s top leaders for their service to the motherland.

Prime Minister Vladimir V Putin, a former KGB agent himself, sang patriotic songs with the agents when he visited them shortly after their arrival in Moscow, he told reporters this summer.

At the time, Putin lambasted the “treachery” that led to their arrest, warning that “traitors always meet bad ends.” He also predicted the former sleeper agents would have “bright and interesting futures.”

The agents themselves have been lying low since their return — all except for Anna Chapman, who allegedly passed encrypted messages to Russian officials from a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighbourhood. With her fondness for Bond girl cocktail dresses and evocative Facebook photos, she has become a darling of the tabloids here. Sightings of the young redheaded Chapman — in an upscale hotel here and a fancy restaurant there — have been common.

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