By Nick Butler

Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly secretly gave medals to many oligarchs who contributed financially in Sochi 2014 ©AFP/Getty ImagesA series of medals were allegedly awarded in secret earlier this year by Russian President Vladimir Putin to oligarchs and other major investors who contributed heavily to Sochi 2014.

Russian newspaper Vedomosti reports a wide range of figures received state honours at a private awards ceremony in March, which was not advertised or open to the media.

Among those receiving medals was Alexei Miller, chief executive of state-owned gas company Gazprom, German Graf, President of banking giants Sberbank, Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin, and high profile oligarchs Vladimir Potanin and Oleg Deripaska.

This is reported to have taken place on March 24, the same day as a series of figures more directly associated with the Games, including Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov and Sochi 2014 chief Dmitry Chernyshenko, were also awarded medals in a closed ceremony.

On that occasion, the Kremlin's press service announced they were awarding state distinctions to certain Government officials and organisers of the Games, but did not reveal that investors in the Games were also honoured, 

Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, has declined to comment on whether the investors had also been honoured, when asked by Vedomosti.

Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller, pictured earlier this year with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is among the reported recipients of the medals ©AFP/Getty ImagesGazprom chief executive Alexei Miller, pictured earlier this year with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is among the reported recipients of the medals ©AFP/Getty Images

Although there is nothing out of the ordinary with the awarding of medals to figures contributing to the Games, the secretive and behind-closed-doors way in which it allegedly took place provides a glimpse into how Sochi 2014 was run.

The Games were a means to illustrate Russia's return to a dominant position on the international stage and state and oligarch-owned companies were heavily leaned on to contribute financially.

The run-up to the Games, which eventually cost a total price tag of RUB 1,661 billion (£31 billion/$51 billion/€37 billion), were marred by allegations of corruption.

Several member of the International Olympic Committee voiced concerns, with International Ski Federation President Gian Franco Kasper claiming in January that a third of the Sochi 2014 budget had disappeared in bribes during preparations.

All of this was strenuously denied by the Kremlin, who repeatedly requested proof to be provided before responding to allegations. 

It also emerged last month that 300 "objective" journalists were awarded the prestigious "Order of Service to the Fatherland" in April for their favourable coverage of events leading up to the Russian annexation of Crimea in March.

Other, more critical, journalists and publications were not acknowledged.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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