MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded medals Monday to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and to Andrei Lugovoi, the suspect in the murder of former Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko, among more than 30 other honorees.
Kadyrov was given the Order of Merit. The decree signed by Putin states: "For work achievements, active social activities and many years of diligent work the Order of Merit is awarded to Ramzan Kadyrov, the President of the Chechen Republic."
Lugovoi, the suspect in the poisoning death of former Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko, was given a second-class medal of the Order of Merit for the Motherland, according to Putin's decree.
Sergey Kislyak, a diplomat who's been serving as Russia's ambassador to the United States since 2008, was also among the honorees. He was cited as an "Honored employee of a diplomatic service."
Lugovoi is an MP in Russia's lower house of parliament for the nationalist and pro-Kremlin Liberal Democratic Party. He is deputy chairman of the lower house's security and anti-corruption committee.
He also has hosted a show called "Traitors" on Russian TV and runs a restaurant in Moscow.
Kadyrov has spoken out about the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, defending Zaur Dadayev, one of the Chechens charged in the shooting. "Zaur Dadayev was a Russian Interior Ministry officer who served with distinction," Kadyrov said on his Instagram account.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was a coincidence that the arrest of suspects in Nemtsov's killing happened around the same time as the award to the Chechen President. In an interview with Russian business outlet RBC, he stressed that the decree on awards was filed several months ago.