They Came to Pick Up Their Nobels, Slam Putin's War

Peace prize winners from Ukraine, Belarus, Russia blasted Russian leader's invasion of Ukraine
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 10, 2022 9:00 AM CST
They Came to Pick Up Their Nobels, Slam Putin's War
Oleksandra Matviichuk of Ukraine's Center for Civil Liberties speaks during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on Saturday.   (Javad Pars/Pool via AP)

The winners of this year's Nobel Peace Prize from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine shared their visions of a fairer world and denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine during Saturday's award ceremony. Oleksandra Matviichuk of Ukraine's Center for Civil Liberties dismissed calls for a political compromise that would allow Russia to retain some of the illegally annexed Ukrainian territories, saying that "fighting for peace does not mean yielding to pressure of the aggressor—it means protecting people from its cruelty." "Peace cannot be reached by a country under attack laying down its arms," she said, her voice trembling with emotion, per the AP. "This would not be peace, but occupation."

Matviichuk repeated her earlier call for Putin—and Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who provided his country's territory for Russian troops to invade Ukraine—to face an international tribunal. Matviichuk was named a co-winner of the 2022 peace prize in October along with Russian human rights group Memorial and Ales Bialiatski, head of the Belarusian rights group Viasna. Bialiatski, who's jailed in Belarus pending his trial and faces a prison sentence of up to 12 years, wasn't allowed to send his speech. He shared a few thoughts when he met in jail with his wife, Natallia Pinchuk, who spoke on his behalf at the awards ceremony.

"In my homeland, the entirety of Belarus is in a prison," Bialiatski said in the remarks delivered by Pinchuk, in reference to a sweeping crackdown on the opposition after massive protests against an August 2020 fraud-tainted vote that Lukashenko used to extend his rule. Bialiatski is the fourth person in the 121-year history of the Nobel Prizes to receive the award while in prison or detention. In the remarks delivered by his wife, he cast Lukashenko as a tool of Putin, saying the Russian leader is seeking to establish his domination across the ex-Soviet lands. "I know exactly what kind of Ukraine would suit Russia and Putin: a dependent dictatorship," he said. "The same as today's Belarus, where the voice of the oppressed people is ignored and disregarded."

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The triple peace prize award was seen as a strong rebuke to Putin, not only for his action in Ukraine, but for the Kremlin's crackdown on domestic opposition and its support for Lukashenko's brutal repression of dissenters. Russia's Supreme Court shut down Memorial, one of Russia's oldest and most prominent human rights organizations, in December 2021. Jan Rachinsky of Memorial said in his speech that "today's sad state of civil society in Russia is a direct consequence of its unresolved past." He particularly denounced the Kremlin's attempts to denigrate the history, statehood, and independence of Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations, saying that it "became the ideological justification for the insane and criminal war of aggression against Ukraine."

(More Nobel Peace Prize stories.)

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