MOSCOW, January 20 (RIA Novosti) – A senior Russian lawmaker blasted on Sunday the UK’s refusal to allow British World War II Arctic convoy veterans to be decorated with Russia’s Ushakov medals.
“The Government of Great Britain has prohibited its World War II veterans to receive medals for courage from Russia. This is a strange and unworthy decision,” State Duma international affairs committee head Alexei Pushkov wrote in his Twitter account.
The Ushakov medal is a Russian state decoration first awarded by the USSR in 1944. The medal is given to service personnel for courage in defense of the Fatherland at sea, both in wartime and peacetime.
The Ushakov medals were given to a group of veterans from several nations, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, in accordance with a presidential decree published in May 2012.
According to British law, foreign governments can only grant awards to UK citizens with the permission of the British Government. The UK Foreign Office rules on the acceptance of foreign awards state that in order for permission to be given for an award to be accepted, there has to have been specific service to the country concerned and the service should have taken place within the previous five years.
The BBC previously reported UK World War II veterans received a letter from the Russian embassy in Great Britain expressing regret that it was in no position “to honor the courage and sacrifice of the British heroes of the Arctic convoys” due to the British “bureaucratic procedure.”
Russia has more than once raised the question of decorating British servicemen from the Arctic Convoys, who brought vitally-needed military supplies to the Soviet Union’s northern ports in the face of intense opposition from German submarines, ships and aircraft in often appalling weather conditions. The convoys brought around 4 million units of cargo, or around a quarter of all the supplies from the Western Allies to the Soviet Union during the war.
Britain’s wartime leader Winston Churchill called the Arctic Convoy routes “the worst journey in the world.” Around 3,000 servicemen died while protecting the convoys.