Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, awarded Russia’s highest honors to the spies who were discovered living and working under false Irish identities in the U.S. recently.

Among them were Richard and Cynthia Murphy, who had thoroughly adopted the suburban New Jersey lifestyle, living with two young daughters in what the Independent described as “a smartly painted house with a trim and tended garden, resplendent with hydrangeas.”

The Murphys, and their fellow spies were rumbled last year and brought back to Russia, where prime minister – and former president – Vladimir Putin said they had endured “a very difficult fate … They had to carry out a task to benefit their motherland's interests for many, many years without a diplomatic cover, risking themselves and those close to them."

"They will work, and I am sure they will have decent jobs," he said. "And I am sure they will have an interesting and bright life."

Part of that, it is now clear, is to be feted as heroes of Russia, as Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said that the spies had been honoured along with other members of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service.

"A ceremony took place in the Kremlin today to give the highest state awards to members of the Foreign Intelligence Service, including spies working in the United States who returned to Russia in July," she told Reuters.

However, according to court documents in the US, the spies did not pass on any actual classified information.