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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Decorates Beloved Screen Spy

APPresident Vladimir Putin congratulating Vyacheslav Tikhonov on his 75th birthday Saturday during a ceremony at the president's Novo-Ogaryovo residence.
Two of Russia's most famous former spies -- one real and one from the movies -- met Saturday when President Vladimir Putin decorated an actor who played a Soviet agent who helps defeat the Nazis in a popular Cold War-era film serial.

In an official ceremony at his residence outside Moscow, Putin hung an Order for Service to the Fatherland, Third Class, around the neck of actor Vyacheslav Tikhonov, who was invited to visit the president on his 75th birthday.

In "17 Moments of Spring," a 1973 made-for-TV serial that is shown repeatedly to this day, Tikhonov played Colonel Maxim Isayev -- known in Germany as Shtirlitz -- a Soviet double agent in World War II Berlin whose web of intrigue contributes greatly to the allied victory.

The suave Shtirlitz is never found out despite countless close calls, and his cool at the tensest moments made him a kind of James Bond of Soviet film -- though with fewer gadgets and girls and a more serious air given the gravity of the war.

Putin's 16-year KGB career included a stint in East Germany, where sketchy accounts suggest his deeds were modest compared to those of Shtirlitz.

After presenting Tikhonov with the cross-shaped medal and a big bouquet, Putin invited him to sit down and share champagne with top security officials, including the heads of the domestic and foreign intelligence agencies that are the main successors of the KGB.

Sitting at a table with Putin and the other officials, the actor told anecdotes about incidents stemming from his role as Shtirlitz, including a story about meeting a Russian man in Switzerland who said he would never have chosen his profession if not for the movie.

Tikhonov said he "came to the president not for an award but to shake his hand and thank him for all the big and good things he is doing for the country," Itar-Tass reported.