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A new Russian primer for Irkutsk schools. (Click for full-size)
Students in the Siberian city of Irkutsk can now learn the Russian alphabet together with a hearty helping of the new political correctness, "The Siberian Times" reported on May 5.

A pro-Kremlin group called Project Network has created a new primer to help children master the 33 letters of the Russian alphabet. The primer walks students through the letters from "A" -- for "Anti-Maidan," Ukraine's pro-Russian groups -- to "Ya" for "Yalta," with predictable stops along the way to note that "P" is for "Putin" and "R" is for "Russia."

But toddlers may wonder who is the dour man whose portrait illustrates the concept "firmness" (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov).

Or why the word "berkut" (golden eagle) is illustrated with the emblem of the disbanded Ukrainian riot police of the same name rather than a picture of a majestic bird in flight.

Or why the letter "D" is associated with the Ukrainian city of Donetsk rather than a basic Russian word like "dom" (home) or "doch" (daughter).

It is an alphabet for the moment for sure. The letter "G" stands for the Russian word for "border," illustrated by a seemingly flimsy striped border post. While the Russian letter "V" stands for the word "politeness" which is incongruously illustrated by a masked soldier, seemingly without insignias but wearing an automatic rifle over his shoulder, handing a cat to a grateful little girl.

According to the group that is distributing the posters, it is a "Polite Alphabet," named after the "polite" forces that brought about Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea in March. Project Network plans to distribute the primers to schools throughout Irkutsk this spring and bring them to other cities soon.

"Children will be taught to love the motherland, respect its people and culture," the group asserts. The letter "I" stands for the Russian word for "history" and is illustrated by a Red Army soldier hoisting the Soviet flag over the Reichstag in Berlin in the closing days of World War II.

At the same time, children will learn to recognize the logo for the Yotaphone, Russia's self-produced smart phone and that the letter "Yu" stands for the Russian name for the South Stream natural-gas pipeline.

The effort seems to mirror a campaign headed by the ruling United Russia party to develop a school course called "We Are Together" to explain the "reunification of Crimea with Russia" to schoolchildren.

-- Robert Coalson
Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded the journalists for their "high-level professionalism" and "objective coverage of events in Crimea" as Russian forces took control of the Ukrainian peninsula.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has secretly showered awards and medals on more than 300 media workers for their "objective" coverage of events in Crimea.

"Vedomosti," one of the few relatively independent newspapers left in Russia, broke the news in a May 5 report.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the decision to "The Moscow Times," adding, however, that the Kremlin did "not plan to add any details about it."

Putin quietly signed the decree on April 22, one month after formally sealing the internationally unrecognized annexation of Crimea.

Quoting a source familiar with the document, "Vedomosti" said the journalists were honored for their "high-level professionalism" and "objective coverage of events in Crimea" as Russian forces took control of the Ukrainian peninsula.

As the newspaper noted, the decree does not appear on the list of decisions published on the presidential website.

Putin's press service said this means the document is "not accessible to the public."

Only one recipient interviewed by "Vedomosti," deputy director of the RTRS state broadcasting company Viktor Pinchuk, admitted being aware of the awards.

News of the awards comes as state-run Russian media are under fire for what critics denounce as an aggressive disinformation campaign to discredit prodemocracy protests in Ukraine and justify Moscow's backing of separatist rebels in the country.

The move has sparked dismay on the Russian Internet, where a Twitter hashtag --#орденвстудию, roughly translated as "send that studio a medal" -- has already been created to pan the awards.

According to "Vedomosti," accolades went to about 100 employees from the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, dozens from the NTV, RT, and Life News television channels, and more than 60 from state-run Channel One.

In March, Channel One was caught airing footage of vehicles queuing up at Ukraine's border with Poland to illustrate a report -- widely dismissed as false -- on Russian-speaking Ukrainians allegedly fleeing to Russia en masse.

WATCH: Russian State TV Anchor: 'Propaganda Is Journalism'
Russian State TV Anchor: 'Propaganda Is Journalism'
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RT, too, has been accused of spinning its own tale about Ukraine, a tale populated by bloodthirsty Ukrainian nationalists and neo-Nazis bent on victimizing the nation's Russian-speaking populations.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last month branded the English-language channel a "propaganda bullhorn" and accused it of promoting "Putin's fantasy about what is playing out on the ground" in Ukraine.

RT's chief editor, Margarita Simonyan, was among those awarded the prestigious For Services to the Fatherland award for their coverage of Crimea.

Talk-show host Arkady Mamontov, NTV general director Vladimir Kulistikov, and prominent television host Vladimir Solovyov were also singled out for their work.

In total, about 90 reporters were honored.

The list of awardees does not include any employees of liberal media outlets.

The Kremlin, however, chose to honor the head of the Federal Mass Media Inspection Service, Aleksander Zharov, whose organization recently blocked access to several popular opposition blogs and the opposition-leaning news website

The move is unprecedented in its scale.

In January 2009, then-President Dmitry Medvedev handed out awards to just 11 journalists for their coverage of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia.

And unlike Putin, Medvedev made the decision public.

In additional to their symbolic value, the awards come with a number of perks.

Holders of the For Services to the Fatherland awards are eligible for a generous monthly allowance. All recipients of state awards can apply for the status of labor veterans, with all the benefits and privileges it entails.

-- Claiire Bigg

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