I see a fair bit written that I got awarded a medal connected to Russia, supposedly meaning I’m an ‘FSB agent’ and that kind of thing.
It’s actually all just the ever mono-directional diatribe of those ‘pro-Ukrainians’ who’d love nothing more than to discredit my work on the purported basis that I have some sort of connection with Russia.
Well, I’d like to answer, and add to that. I have actually been awarded 4 medals for my journalism, and got them mounted today, to display at home, because of course I’m honoured that people have appreciated my work enough to bestow these symbols of recognition.
So, from left, actually the above ‘FSB medal‘ in question, was my first, awarded on March 1st 2015, in the town of Chekhov, by Moscow by a (non-state) group for Russian border guards. It was given to me by Pavel Hlyupin, former border guard, and a man I’d known for several months because of his humanitarian work in Donbass, presented in a local council room there, in a small ceremony.
The medal is conferred for ‘real assistance to Novorossiya‘ and reflects gratitude for my work there. Actually, at the time, I’d just left Donbass (Novorossiya the term used by some to mean that, and wider area), having been on the frontline covering the takeover of Debaltsevo – see here –
It was given as a gesture of appreciation, recognition of my, what had been a near 7-month uninterrupted stint of work in Donbass, starting back in the Lugansk blockade in August of 2014 – see here –
There’s no state significance to it, no official connection to any Russian organ. And I’m pretty sure that if Russia’s FSB give out medals of the sort this has been made out to be, they do so in Moscow, not a small town 70km south.
Anyway, it was a nice gesture, and I was pleased to accept it!
Fast forward to December 21st, and I was awarded the medal of ‘Merit’, 2nd order, by head of the Lugansk People’s Republic, Igor Plotnitsky. This one was a particular honour for me, as I’d been the only western journalist in Lugansk for almost a month in summer of 2014 as the city was under siege by Ukrainian forces, without water, electricity, phone signal, little food, under constant shelling.
On February 5th, in St Petersburg, I was given the Dmitry Karbyshev medal of military journalism (pictured), this coming at the time when I’d left Donbass, after another long spell there, and was in St Petersburg working on my film ‘Aramis’.
March 24th, back in Lugansk, I was given another award for my Lugansk work ‘from the grateful people of Lugansk’, from the International Community Fund ‘Commandarm‘.
So, there we go! Now, there’s no question that my awards orientate from a Russian, Lugansk Republic direction. However, it’s been these states which have recognised my work – the western media haven’t wanted to show my documentation of Ukrainian shelling, and more, so the western world mostly isn’t aware of my 4000+ video reports.
But none of them have any connection whatsoever to the Russian state. In any case, you can hardly choose who gives you awards. I don’t go ‘chasing medals’, but of course, it’s gratifying when someone values your work, and nice to have a tangible symbol of that. My policy is – accept the medal, be proud of it, but never let it affect, or have any bearing on my work.
Anyway, I’m happy to have them mounted, and set the medal record straight here.