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updated: 1/14/2013 8:48 AM

U.K. won't let British veterans accept Russian medal

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Associated Press

LONDON -- Britain's Foreign Office said Monday that U.K. veterans who served on hazardous Arctic convoy duty during World War II may not accept bravery medals offered by Russia.

The convoys that sailed from Britain to northern ports in what was then the Soviet Union provided vital support to Soviet troops fighting Hitler's forces on the eastern front.

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Officials said Friday it would violate British rules to accept Russia's Ushakov Medal because the veterans are in line to receive a British medal for their service and because the service took place more than five years ago.

The Foreign Office added in a statement that it "very much appreciates" the Russian government's desire to recognize the "brave and valuable" service provided by the Arctic convoy veterans.

In 2010, a group of British veterans did receive Russian commemorative medals for their participation in the convoys aboard the HMS Belfast that took part in them and is now a museum.

Britain's wartime leader Winston Church called the voyage from northern Scotland to Russia's northern ports "the worse journey in the world." Experts believe some 3,000 sailors died in the voyages intended to deliver tanks, aircraft and other weapons and military equipment. They faced attacks from German U-boats and bombers and were also subjected to extreme cold and ice.

Prime Minister David Cameron said last year that the Arctic Convoy veterans would be honored with a medal, but officials say details are still being worked out.

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