At a ceremony staged in the Kremlin on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin handed out state awards to Russian cosmonauts, pilots, scientists, politicians, military men, cultural workers and production managers -- 45 people in all. Addressing the assembly, the president said the achievements made by the people who were being awarded had raised economic indicators and added to the country's steady development. This success has also found reflection in "the general mood, in the realization that a qualitative breakthrough is quite possible in our times of extensive opportunities," added Putin. Among those who received the country's highest award, the Star of Hero of the Russian Federation, were test pilot Vyacheslav Averyanov, Lieutenant Colonel Vadim Pankov /who distinguished himself while performing his military duty in the North Caucasian region/, and deputy Commander of a cosmonaut detachment Yury Baturin. Putin also singled out pilot cosmonauts from the Soyuz TM-32 crew Talgat Musabayev, who was awarded an Order for Merits to the Fatherland, 2nd Class, and Yury Baturin, who accomplished a 10-day flight to the International Space Station in April-May of 2001 together with the world's first space tourist, American Dennis Tito.
Military expert Vladimir Orlov expressed the opinion that the Pentagon is preparing to strike at least four Russian regions.