Let Russians give medals as thank-you to veterans

STEVE CANAVAN: A real cliffhanger in the Lakes

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It’s scandalous enough that Arctic Convoy veterans are still fighting to get a medal from the British government.

But when that same government also digs its heels in and refuses to allow Russia to give them the Ushakov medal, that really is beyond the pale. These men performed countless brave missions in freezing conditions that were essential in maintaining supply lines to Russians during the Second World War.

It meant they could keep fighting the Nazis on Germany’s eastern front.

Russia clearly feels it owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the convoy veterans and wants to be able to decorate them for their efforts.

So why not let it happen? It’s not as if there’s a question of precedent here. The Ushakov medal has already been given to veterans in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.

The authorities in these countries have been only too happy to recognise the vital wartime role the veterans performed.

Yet in the United Kingdom, their home, they are told by the Foreign Office that for a medal to be awarded by a foreign state, there has to be a specific service to the country concerned ­– and that it should have happened within the previous five years.

No wonder Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, says the Russian Embassy in London has ‘profound regret’ that the British government will not allow them to be decorated

It’s just this kind of petty officialdom that has dogged the veterans’ dignified but determined fight to get an Arctic Convoy medal.

At every turn they have been quoted rules and regulations and reasons why their own government cannot honour them.

Now another country’s government wants to do so, they have also fallen victim to infuriating intransigence.

We’ve said it so many times before and will keep on saying it. The convoy veterans deserve a medal from this nation for what they went through during the war.

And now they also deserve to be allowed to receive a medal from the Russians.

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