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Nobel Peace Prize to activists from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine

KYIV, UKRAINE (AP) – Activists from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia won the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2022 prize to imprisoned Belarus rights activist Ales Bialiatski (AP pic, below), the Russian group Memorial and the Ukrainian organisation Center for Civil Liberties.

Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Berit Reiss-Andersen said the panel wanted to honour ”three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence”.

“Through their consistent efforts in favour of human values and anti-militarism and principles of law, this year’s laureates revitalised and honoured Alfred Nobel’s vision of peace and fraternity between nations, a vision most needed in the world today,” she told reporters in Oslo.

Asked whether the Nobel Committee was intentionally sending a signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who celebrated his 70th birthday yesterday, Reiss-Andersen said “we always give a prize for something and to somebody and not against anyone”.

Visitors stand near the entrance to the human rights group Memorial’s office, in Moscow, Russia. PHOTO: AP

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 organisation Human Rights Center Viasna.

He was detained following protests in 2020 against the re-election of Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko. He remains in jail without trial.

“Despite tremendous personal hardship, Bialiatski has not yielded one inch in his fight for human rights and democracy in Belarus,” Reiss-Andersen said, adding that the Nobel panel was calling on Belarusian authorities to release him.

Exiled Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, visiting Paris, told the AP the award would further increase the spotlight on Belarusian political prisoners and said she felt “honoured and delighted” that Bialiatski was among the laureates, calling him a “famous human rights defender in Belarus and in the world” and a “wonderful person”.

“For sure, it will attract more attention to (the) humanitarian situation in our country,” she said of the award.

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

“But there are thousands of other people detained because of their political views, and I hope that it will raise awareness about our country and practical steps will have been done in order to release those people who sacrificed with their freedom,” she told the AP.

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

“For us, this is a sign that our work is important for the world and for people in Russia,” Glushkova said.

Glushkova noted that the award was handed to the group on the day when it once again had to appear 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 was shut down, it gave the building to one of its affiliate organisations, the Memorial Research and Education Center.

Russian authorities are contesting the deal in court, and the Prosecutor General’s office filed a motion to invalidate it. Memorial considers the move an attempt to seize the building and hinder the organisation’s operation.

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

Centre representative Volodymyr Yavorskyi, said the award was important for the organisation because “for many years we worked in a country that was invisible”.

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


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