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SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

22.06.2013

Ambassador’s Notebook: British Veterans Awarded Russian Medal

On June 16, President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister David Cameron presented to 20 veterans with each country’s state awards, the Ushakov Medal and the Arctic Star, at a joint ceremony.

The Ushakov medal was established in 1944 at the height of the WWII. This war medal was traditionally awarded to sailors, soldiers, sergeants and warrant officers for bravery and courage in defending their nation.

The UK’s Arctic star is a campaign medal introduced by HM Government in December 2012 to acknowledge the heroic deeds of the Arctic Convoy veterans.

Under the obligations assumed at the 1941 Moscow conference, the United Kingdom and the United States supplied the Red Army with weapons, military equipment and other vital goods, and on their way back convoys brought strategic raw materials to Britain. Allied ships sailed from Britain to Russia’s northern ports of Murmansk and Archangel between 1941 and 1945. In total there were 41 convoys from the UK to Russia and 36 convoys from Russia to the UK. The supplies they carried were vital to the war effort, as Nazi forces had Russia completely blockaded from the West.

Under constant threat of attack by Nazi U-boats and aircraft, the crews also had to deal with severe cold, storms, and ice. Many ships were lost and over 3,000 British Navy and Merchant marine personnel perished in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Their bodies were never recovered. Prime Minister Winston Churchill rightly called the Arctic Convoys the “worst journey in the world,” but their bravery enabled the Red Army to fend off the Nazi onslaught until the battle of Stalingrad, when the tide was turned.

Russia has never forgotten the deeds of our allies. Since 1985, Foreign Convoy veterans have been awarded medals marking the anniversaries of the Victory in the Second World War.

Now, the Arctic convoy veterans have been presented with this long-awaited award in recognition of their personal heroism and invaluable contribution to our joint victory over fascism.

Her Majesty’s consent for the Ushakov medal to be awarded to the British Convoy veterans recognizes the importance of the Russia-UK allied relationship during the Second World War, the role it played in defeating the Nazi Germany and its allies and saving Europe from fascism.

It is also indicative of the positive trends in the development of our broader bilateral relationship over the last two to three years.

It is highly symbolic that British veterans are awarded this medal, since Russian Admiral Ushakov (who was later canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church), led Russian Navy against Napoleonic France at a time when the British Navy fought under the command of Admiral Nelson.

I would like to thank all those who campaigned for due recognition of the British Arctic Convoy veterans’ wartime effort and sacrifice – lawmakers, civil society activists and the veterans’ families.




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