Nobel Peace Prize to activists from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine | Culture & Leisure

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Activists from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, a strong rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin whose invasion of Ukraine has outraged the international community and highlighted his authoritarian regime.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2022 prize to imprisoned Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski, Russian group Memorial and Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of Norway’s Nobel Prize committee, said the panel wanted to honor “three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence.”

“Through their tireless efforts to uphold human values, anti-militarism and the principles of law, this year’s laureates have revitalized and honored Alfred Nobel’s vision of peace and brotherhood among nations, a vision the world needs most today,” she told reporters in Oslo.

Asked if the Nobel committee was intentionally sending a signal to Putin, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Friday, Reiss-Andersen said that “we always give a prize for something and to someone and not against anyone”.

“This award is not for President Putin, not for his birthday or in any other sense, except that his government, as a government in Belarus, represents an authoritarian government that suppresses human rights activists,” she said.

Bialiatski was one of the leaders of the democracy movement in Belarus in the mid-1980s and continued to campaign for human rights and civil liberties in the authoritarian country. He founded the non-governmental organization Human Rights Center Viasna.

He was arrested following protests in 2020 against the re-election of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin. He remains in prison without trial.

“Despite enormous personal difficulties, Mr. Bialiatski has not given an inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus,” said Reiss-Andersen, adding that the Nobel Prize jury called on the Belarusian authorities to release him.

Belarusian opposition leader in exile Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, visiting Paris, told The Associated Press that the award would bring Belarusian political prisoners into the spotlight and said she felt “honoured and delighted” that Bialiatski is among the winners, calling him a “famous defender of human rights”. in Belarus and in the world” and a “wonderful person”.

“It will definitely draw more attention to (the) humanitarian situation in our country,” she said of the award.

Tsikhanouskaya, whose husband is also imprisoned, said Bialiatski was “suffering a lot in punishment cells” at a prison in Belarus.

“But there are thousands of other people who are being detained because of their political views, and I hope this will raise awareness in our country and that practical steps will have been taken to free these people who have sacrificed their freedom,” she said. the PA.

Memorial was founded in the Soviet Union in 1987 to ensure the memory of the victims of communist repression. He continued to compile information on human rights abuses and tracked the fate of political prisoners in Russia. The country’s highest court ordered it closed in December, the latest step in a relentless crackdown on rights activists, independent media and opposition supporters.

Tatyana Glushkova, a board member of the Memorial Human Rights Defense Center, said she learned about the award from the media. “It was a shock,” she told the AP. “We are very, very happy.”

“For us, this is a sign that our work, whether recognized by the Russian authorities or not, is important for the world, important for people in Russia,” Glushkova said.

Glushkova noted that the award was presented to the group on the day it was due to appear again in court in Moscow – this time on a case related to its office building in central Moscow.

International Memorial owned the building, but after the group closed, it donated the building to one of its affiliated organizations, the Memorial Research and Education Center. Russian authorities are challenging the deal in court, and the attorney general’s office has filed a motion to have it set aside. Memorial views the move as an attempt to take over the building and interfere with the organization’s operations.

The Center for Civil Liberties was founded in 2007 to promote human rights and democracy in Ukraine during a time of turmoil in the country.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the group worked to document Russian war crimes against Ukrainian civilians.

“The center plays a pioneering role in holding perpetrators accountable for their crimes,” Reiss-Andersen said.

A representative of the center, Volodymyr Yavorskyi, said the award was important for the organization because “for many years we worked in a country that was invisible”.

“It’s a surprise for us,” he told the AP. “But human rights activity is the main weapon against war.”

This year’s award continues the tradition of highlighting groups and activists who are trying to prevent conflict, alleviate hardship and protect human rights.

Last year’s winners have gone through a tough time since receiving the award. Journalists Dmitry Muratov from Russia and Maria Ressa from the Philippines have fought for the survival of their news agencies, defying government efforts to silence them

They were honored last year for “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a prerequisite for democracy and lasting peace.”

The prize has a cash reward of 10 million Swedish krona (nearly $900,000) and will be presented on December 10. The money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, in 1895.

Jordans reported from Berlin. Harriet Morris and Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia; John Leicester in Le Pecq, France; and Boubkar Benzebat in Paris contributed to this story.

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