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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 Grani.ru.

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
Russia -- Tolmachevy sisters of Russia perform at the Eurovision Song Contest's pre-party in Moscow, April 20, 2014
The Week Ahead is a detailed listing of key events of the coming week affecting RFE/RL's broadcast region.

Now on Twitter! Daily updates at @The_Week_Ahead.

MONDAY, May 5:

EU: European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton visits the United States (to May 7).

Iran: New York hosts another round of expert-level nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers (to May 9).

Italy: The Group of Seven (G7) energy ministers meet in Rome to discuss Europe's dependence on Russian energy (to May 6).

Moldova/UK: British Foreign Minister William Hague visits Chisinau.

Russia/Serbia: Russian State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin visits Belgrade (to May 6).

Serbia: EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fuele visits Belgrade.

Turkmenistan/Tajikistan: Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov visits Dushanbe (to May 6).


TUESDAY, May 6:

Council of Europe: Vienna hosts a Council of Europe Committee of Foreign Ministers meeting.

Denmark: Copenhagen hosts the ​Eurovision Song Contest 2014 first semi-final.

Georgia: Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili, Turkish President Abdullah Gul, and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev are scheduled to open Tbilisi Summit 2014.

Russia: The second anniversary of the Bolotnaya Square demonstration on May 6, 2012, where hundreds of peaceful protesters were arrested and scores injured.

Ukraine/UK: British Foreign Minister William Hague visits Kyiv.


WEDNESDAY, May 7:

Georgia/UK: British Foreign Minister William Hague visits Tbilisi (to May 8).

Montenegro: UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva is scheduled to review Montenegro (to May 8).


THURSDAY, May 8:

Azerbaijan: Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland visits Baku.

Denmark: Copenhagen hosts the ​Eurovision Song Contest 2014 second semi-final.

World: Red Cross and Red Crescent Day.


FRIDAY, May 9:

Belarus: Minsk hosts the 2014 World Ice Hockey Championship (to May 25).

EU: Europe Day.

Moldova: Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin is expected to travel to Tiraspol.

Russia: Moscow hosts an annual Victory Day parade.


SATURDAY, May 10:

Denmark: Copenhagen hosts the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 final.

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About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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