The UK investigation portal Bellingcat, has found, based on open data that in the period 2014-2015 Russia sharply increased the number of awarded combat medals compared to previous years. During this time the RF authorities issued not less than 10 thousand medals "For Distinguished Service", "For Courage" and medals of Suvorov and Zhukov, the portal said a new report made public on 31 August.
The researchers stress that the amount awarded a medal grew after the active hostilities in Ukraine (the August invasion, battle for Donetsk airport, Debaltsevo), and then decreased, but still has not stop.
According to the researchers, this is a clear evidence that Russian soldiers took part in the war in the Donbas.
"It is possible to demonstrate with the available data that the number of awarded medals, compared to the years before 2014, suddenly and strongly increased in 2014 and 2015. The most direct proof for an active participation of Russian servicemen in combat operations is provided by the large number of awarded medals “For Distinction in Combat”. 4300 awards of this type were awarded between 07.11.2014 and 18.02.2016, strongly suggesting larger combat operations with active Russian military involvement in this period. Additionally, the relatively large number of awards for the other three medals does not correspond with a nation at peace. In sum, the presented data suggests that more than ten thousand medals of all four types were awarded in the considered period," the report says.
Even if the number of data points compared to the medal “For Distinction in Combat” is lower, it can be assessed that the number of medals awarded per day approximately follows the events in eastern Ukraine
The Russian army has been probably involved in the fighting in the east of Ukraine in the quieter stages of the war, after the signing of the Minsk II in February 2015.
Officially Russia never fought a war in the period between 2008 (the war with Georgia) and until September 2015 (the war in Syria).