Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner calls Putins war on Ukraine insane

Russian regiment appeals for equipment in cold Ukrainian conditions

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Under the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee since 1901. Saturday’s award ceremonies took place at the Oslo City Hall in the presence of King Olav V and Queen Sonja, while the other Nobel prizes were formally presented during ceremonies in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, later the same day.

Russian Yan Rachinsky, head of the human rights group Memorial, said in his acceptance speech on Saturday that “today’s sad state of civil society in Russia is a direct consequence of its unresolved past.”

He denounced the Kremlin’s attempts to denigrate the history, statehood and independence of Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations, saying it “became the ideological justification for the insane and criminal war of aggression against Ukraine.”

“One of the first victims of this madness was the historical memory of Russia itself,” Rachinsky said. “Now, the Russian mass media refer to the unprovoked armed invasion of a neighbouring country, the annexation of territories, terror against civilians in the occupied areas, and war crimes as justified by the need to fight fascism.”

Rachinsky was named a co-winner of the 2022 peace prize in October along with Oleksandra Matviichuk of Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties and Ales Bialiatski, head of the Belarusian rights group Viasna.

All the winners spoke in unison to condemn the war in Ukraine, but there were some marked differences.

Oleksandra Matviichuk 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. “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.

“We have to prove that the rule of law does work, and justice does exist, even if they are delayed,” she said.

Under the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee since 1901. Saturday’s award ceremonies took place at the Oslo City Hall in the presence of King Olav V and Queen Sonja, while the other Nobel prizes were formally presented during ceremonies in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, later the same day.

Bialiatski, who is 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 award 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. “This award belongs to all my human rights defender friends, all civic activists, tens of thousands of Belarusians who have gone through beatings, torture, arrests, prison.”

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.”

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 organisations that was widely acclaimed for its studies of political repression in the Soviet Union, in December 2021.

Prior to that, the Russian government had declared the organisation a “foreign agent” — a label that implies additional government scrutiny and carries strong pejorative connotations that can discredit the targeted organisation.

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