President Vladimir Putin on July 20 presented awards to security operatives involved in anti-terrorist operations, including those who carried out the operation to eliminate Chechen rebel warlord Shamil Basaev. The ceremony was held behind closed doors, and the New York Times on July 21 quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov as saying that Putin had met with fewer than 12 participants in the operation that had killed Basaev and had issued them medals for heroism and service to the country. According to the newspaper, Peskov said a majority of the participants came from the FSB but declined to discuss additional details or say what other security agencies had been represented. “All of them are people who are never in public and never will be,” Peskov said.
Kommersant, for its part, reported on July 21 that about 50 FSB employees were at the ceremony—about 20 from the FSB’s Chechen and Ingushetian branches and the remainder from the FSB’s central office. “Most of them were senior officers, but a few junior officers were present as well,” Kommersant wrote. “There were two women among them. Ten participants in the Basaev operation, including one of the women, received the Order of Bravery. The other woman received the Suvorov medal ‘for personal bravery and valor in defending the homeland and state interests of Russia.’”
Kommersant also reported that the highest award given out by Putin on July 20 went to FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev, who received a first degree “For Services to the Fatherland.” The newspaper wrote: “That does not mean that he played a decisive role in neutralizing Terrorist Number One. Mr. Patrushev more likely deserved the award due to the strength of the totality [of his record] and, of course, for his recent 55th birthday.”
The Chechen rebels have denied that Basaev was killed as a result of a Russian special operation, claiming that his death was actually the result of an accidental detonation of explosives.