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Europe praises, Belarus despises Nobel for rights defenders

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BERLIN — Officials in Europe have praised the awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to activists defending human rights and democracy in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, while authorities in Belarus scorned the move.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year has brought Moscow’s relationship with its Western neighbors to a new low point. Even before that, ties had been strained over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s backing of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, his support for authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and his crackdown on political opponents such as dissident Alexei. Navalny at home.

“I hope that the Russian authorities will read the rationale for the peace prize and take it seriously,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said after the Nobel Committee awarded the 2022 prize to imprisoned Belarusian rights activist Ales Bialiatski. , the Russian rights group Memorial, and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, which focuses on documenting war crimes.

“It sends a signal that keeping civil society at bay is protecting one’s own power. It is seen from the outside and is criticized,” he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron was among world leaders who quickly greeted the laureates, tweeting that their award “pays tribute to the steadfast defenders of human rights in Europe.”

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“Artisans of peace, you know you can count on the support of France,” the French leader said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg congratulated the winners, tweeting that “the right to speak truth to power is fundamental to free and open societies.”

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Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said the award should be seen in the context of the conflict in Ukraine.

“There is a war in Europe. Therefore, your work for peace and human rights is more important than ever,” she told the winners. “Thanks for that.”

In Paris, exiled opposition leader from Belarus, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, told The Associated Press that the award was “a recognition of all the people who are sacrificing their freedom and their lives for the good of (Belarus).”

Over the past two years, the Belarusian government has carried out a violent crackdown on journalists and protesters who claim the 2020 presidential election there was rigged, beating thousands, detaining tens of thousands, accusing human rights defenders of cases that the opposition describes as politically motivated. Many have fled the country for their own safety.

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“Physically, you know, this award will not influence their situation, but I am sure it will influence the mood and intentions of other countries to help people behind bars,” Tsikhanouskaya said.

Meanwhile, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry denounced the Nobel committee’s decision to award the prize to Bialiatski as “politicized.”

Ministry spokesman Anatoly Glaz said that “in recent years, several important decisions — and we are talking about the peace prize — of the Nobel committee have become so politicized that, sorry, Alfred Nobel got tired of turning in his grave.”

“But it is his kitchen and his conscience, we do not want to interfere and comment. We just lost all interest in him at some point,” Glaz said.

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Follow all AP stories about the Nobel Prizes at https://apnews.com/hub/nobel-prizes

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