Medal of dishonor: UK bars WWII vets from receiving Russian award

London has denied Moscow permission to honor UK veterans of the WWII Arctic Convoys by presenting them with the prestigious Ushakov Medal.

Between 1941 and 1945, the convoys formed a crucial supply route from the UK and North America to the northern Soviet ports of Murmansk and Archangelsk. Merchant vessels were escorted by British Royal Naval ships and aircraft carriers.

In April of this year, then-President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree awarding the Ushakov Medal – named after the seasoned Russian Admiral Fyodor Ushakov – to foreign veterans for exceptional contributions to Allied war efforts during WWII.

Under UK law, citizens are allowed to receive foreign medals and awards only if the British government gives them permission, and only if the award relates to the recipient’s activities within past five years.

In May 2012, Moscow officially asked London for permission. The Russian Embassy in the UK forwarded 813 letters from the veterans to Britain’s Foreign Office that detailed their public activities over the last five years.

The Foreign Office turned down the request, saying that the information provided ‘does not describe any relevant service specific to Russia within the last five years,’ the embassy’s press release said. The decision may be revisited if the Russian diplomatic service provides details of veterans who satisfy to the five year criteria.

“It is, however, difficult to imagine the persons in their late eighties and early nineties to do things similar to what they did at the time of the war 70 years ago,” the Russian embassy wrote in its statement.

“It does not diminish in any way our gratitude to them for their fighting for the common cause of defeating Nazism and delivering Europe and the whole of mankind from this existential threat,” the embassy said.

Moscow also vowed to contact each British veteran slated to receive the award.