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Putin Bestows Controversial Awards

FILE - Alexander Litvinenko, former KGB spy and author of the book "Blowing Up Russia: Terror From Within" photographed at his home in London, May 10, 2002. Andrei Lugovoi is a prime suspect in his poisoning.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Monday conferring awards on several people, including the chief suspect in the murder of dissident Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko.

Putin awarded a medal for "services to the fatherland" to Andrei Lugovoi, a former KGB bodyguard who is now a member of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament.

FILE - Andrei Lugovoi
FILE - Andrei Lugovoi

The government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported Monday that Lugovoi was decorated for his "contribution to the development of Russian parliamentarism and energetic legislative activity." Lugovoi is the deputy chairman of the Duma's security and anti-corruption committee.

In May 2007, British prosecutors asked Russia to extradite Lugovoi to face charges for the murder of Litvinenko, who died in London in November 2006 as a result of exposure to the radioactive isotope polonium-210. Russian authorities refused, citing the country's constitution, which prohibits the extradition of Russian citizens.

Also in Monday's decree, Putin conferred an order of merit on Ramzan Kadyrov, the pro-Kremlin leader of the Russian region of Chechnya. According to Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Kadyrov was awarded for his professional achievements along with his "active public service and longstanding conscientious work."

FILE - Ramzan Kadyrov
FILE - Ramzan Kadyrov

Both Russian and international human rights groups have accused Kadyrov and the security forces loyal to him of widespread human rights abuses in Chechnya. Chechen opponents of Kadyrov have been murdered in Russia and abroad.

One of the five men detained for the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was a deputy commander in the "Sever" (North) battalion of Chechnya's police force. Zaur Dadayev and the four other suspects, all of them Chechens, appeared in a Moscow court Sunday, where the judge said Dadayev had confessed to his involvement in the killing.

Nemtsov was shot four times in the back on February 27 as he walked across a bridge with his girlfriend in sight of the Kremlin.

President Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told the Russian news website RBK on Monday that the timing of award for Kadyrov was a coincidence, saying it takes "several months" to draw up the documents for such awards.

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