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NOVAYA GAZETA (Russia)


MOSCOW - There was a market for Soviet war medals even before the Soviet Union itself faded into history. There were thieves and collectors. But the real boom came in the 1990s, just after the fall of the Soviet Union, when many veterans looking to make some extra cash were willing to part with their honors. One collector even recalled obtaining a prized medal in exchange for a bottle of vodka.

The trade in old war medals is still illegal, but the collectors explained that the police have been looking the other way for quite some time, and that in fact collectors are usually the first to help the police in the case of stolen medals. Stolen goods, they explained, never interest serious collectors. Many expressed their hope that buying and selling old war medals would become legal.

Often, the collectors says, they appreciated the medals and the actions they represent far more than the relatives who sell them. That, at least, was certainly confirmed by Novaya Gazeta's reporter, who met with a woman selling her grandfather's war medals, but had no idea what he had done to get them.

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Geopolitics

Russia's Military Failures Are Really About Its Soldiers

No doubt, strategic errors and corruption at the highest ranks in the Kremlin are partly to blame for the Russian military's stunning difficulties in Ukraine. But the roots run deeper, where the ordinary recruits come from, how they are exploited, how they react.

Army reserve soldiers go to Red Square to attend a Pioneer Induction ceremony

Anna Akage

To the great relief of Ukraine and the great surprise of the rest of the world, the Russian army — considered until February 24, the second strongest in the world — is now eminently beatable on the battlefield against Ukrainian forces operating with vastly inferior firepower.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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After renouncing the original ambitions to take Kyiv and unseat the Ukrainian government, the focus turned to the southeastern region of Donbas, where a would-be great battle on a scale comparable to World War II Soviet victories has turned into a quagmire peppered with laughable updates by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on TikTok.

The Russians have not managed to occupy a single significant Ukrainian city, except Kherson, which they partially destroyed and now find difficult to hold. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are left to suffer the bombing of cities and villages from Lviv to Odessa, with looting, torture and assorted war crimes.

The reasons for both the poor performance and atrocities are many, and include deep-seated corruption and lack of professionalism up through the highest ranks, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had never served in the army, and arrived in his position only because of his loyalty to the No. 1 man in the Kremlin.

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