The Order of St Andrew the Apostle is the highest state decoration of Russia, the official said

NEW DELHI: Russia on Friday awarded its highest state honour 'Order of St Andrew the Apostle' to PM Narendra Modi for promoting bilateral special and privileged strategic partnership.

"On April 12, 2019, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi was decorated with the Order of St Andrew the Apostle - the highest state decoration of Russia - for exceptional services in promoting special and privileged strategic partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of India and friendly relations between the Russian and Indian peoples," announced a Russian government statement.

The award was extended on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin with whom Modi shares a strong chemistry.

The two leaders met on numerous occasions including an informal summit over past five years promoting defence and economic partnership. Putin was the only P-5 leader who telephoned Modi after the Pulwama terror attack as he defended India's right to self-defence.

The Order of St Andrew the Apostle is awarded to prominent statesmen and public figures and representatives of science, culture, the arts and various industries for their exceptional services in promoting the prosperity, greatness and glory of Russia. The order can also be awarded to foreign heads of state for outstanding services to Russia.

Among the foreign awardees are the President of China Xi Jinping, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Geydar Aliev. The ceremony for the award is usually held at the St Andrew Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace.

The most recent person who was decorated is Valentina Matvienko, Chairperson of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. She was awarded the order on March 28, 2019.

The Order was established in 1698 by Tsar Peter the Great, in honour of Saint Andrew, the first apostle of Jesus and patron saint of Russia. It was bestowed in a single class and was only awarded for the most outstanding civilian or military merit.