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Putin Gave Medals to Olympic Investors, Paper Says

FILE: Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, laughs with Russia's gold medalist bobsleigh athlete, Alexander Zubkov, during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics closing ceremony Feb. 23, 2014.
President Vladimir Putin has handed out medals to a number of Russian billionaires who invested in the Sochi Olympics, the world's most expensive Games, an influential Russian business newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Putin gave the awards to major investors -- including Sberbank CEO German Gref, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and tycoons Vladimir Potanin and Oleg Deripaska -- back in March, Vedomosti reported, citing people who attended the ceremony.

The event was closed to media, Vedomosti reported. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment when contacted by the paper.

The Sochi Winter Olympics cost an estimated $50 billion as Putin laid on a lavish spectacle to present a modern and dynamic image of Russia to the world.

Kremlin critics said there was massive corruption in the awarding of Olympic contracts, but no investigations into their allegations have been launched.

The Games ran smoothly, but coincided with the climax of mass protests in Ukraine and the toppling of its pro-Moscow president, Viktor Yanukovich. Within weeks, Russia had annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, triggering the worst crisis with the West since the Cold War.

The Kremlin last month confirmed it had awarded 300 medals to journalists from state and other loyal media for their coverage of the Ukraine crisis, in which pro-Russian separatists are fighting Ukrainian forces in the east of the country.

Pro-Kremlin media have been criticized inside Russia and abroad for bias in their reporting from Ukraine.