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In Russia, it's an honor to be a deported spy

From Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Anna Chapman and 10 others were deported to Russia about four months ago.
Anna Chapman and 10 others were deported to Russia about four months ago.
  • Eleven Russian agents were arrested in the U.S. and returned to Moscow in a spy swap
  • Russia's president has given top state honors to intelligence service officers
  • Recipients included "officers who were working in the United States," a Kremlin official says

(CNN) -- Nearly four months after a Russian spy ring in the U.S. was unmasked and the spies deported, Russia's president awarded the spies top state honors.

The ceremony took place Monday in the Kremlin, according to a statement from Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova. The awards were given to employees of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), she said, "including the intelligence officers who were working in the United States and returned to Russia in July."

The event was reported in the Russian media but video and pictures were not shown.

Shortly after news of the spy scandal broke President Dmitry Medvedev, trying to downplay repercussions, said any attempt to destroy warming relations with the U.S. would fail.

In August, however, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, himself a former intelligence agent in Germany during the Cold War, boasted that he met with the spies after their return to Moscow and sang "patriotic songs" with them. He also criticized U.S. authorities for "going out of control" in dealing with the affair.

Eleven intelligence personnel, living and working in the U.S. as "sleeper" agents, were arrested and later allowed to return to Moscow as part of a spy swap. A twelfth was arrested in Cyprus and escaped.

Perhaps the most famous member of the group, 28-year-old year old Anna Chapman, has been relentlessly covered by international media and portrayed as a glamorous spook.

Now, according to the Russian media, she is a consultant to a Russian investment bank and was most recently spotted October 7 at the Baikonur space station working on space exploration projects. Russian media report she also is writing a book on "new internet resources."