Bellingcat has analyzed the number of medals that have been awarded to Russian soldiers over the past years. According to the British investigative journalists group, tens of thousands of servicemen from Russia were involved in the hostilities in eastern Ukraine.
A British investigative journalists group that conducts independent investigations on open source data found that tens of thousands of Russian soldiers were involved in hostilities in the Donbas. Bellingcat provided evidence of this fact in its investigation entitled "Russia’s War in Ukraine: The Medals and Treacherous Numbers", published on the 31st of August.
Based exclusively on information from open sources, Bellingcat has analyzed the number of medals that have been awarded to Russian soldiers over the past few years. Servicemen often post photos of medals in social networks and make them publicly available.
“The value of these photos lies in the fact that a sequential number is usually assigned to most state medals in Russia and this makes it possible to define the number of awarded soldiers. It means that we can learn how many medals were given out during this period from photos of two medals awarded to soldiers at different times,” the authors of investigation explained.
Bellingcat experts have analyzed the presentation of four types of state awards in the Russian Federation – medals For Courage, Battle Merit and Zhukov medals. As a result of the analysis of the collected data, it was found that the number of medals awarded has suddenly and rapidly increased in 2014 and 2015 compared with the period before 2014.
4,300 medals for Battle Merit alone were awarded to Russian soldiers during the period from November 2014 to February 2016. This indicates that the Russian Army took an active part in large-scale military actions during this period, the investigative journalists concluded. Bellingcat noted that findings also show that more than 10,000 medals of all four types were awarded during the analyzed period.
Probably, much more than 10,000 Russian servicemen took part in the hostilities in eastern Ukraine and taking into consideration all the soldiers that were involved this figure is likely tens of thousands of Russian servicemen.