The triple peace prize award was seen as a strong rebuke to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
After the award ceremony in Oslo, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners took turns criticizing Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
Imprisoned Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian organization Memorial and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties were announced as the winners in October and recognized for their work documenting war crimes, human rights abuses and abuse of power.
The Peace Prize is awarded annually on December 10, the day Alfred Nobel died in 1896, with winners sharing the prize, which is worth nearly $1 million.
Al Jazeera spoke to Natallia Pinchuk, Bialiatski’s wife, who attended the ceremony on behalf of her jailed husband.
“Ales and we all realize how important and risky it is to fulfill the mission of civil rights defenders, especially at the tragic moment of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” Pinchuk said.
She went on to say that her husband is just one of thousands of Belarusians unjustly imprisoned for his civic action and beliefs.
“Hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee the country for the very reason that they wanted to live in a democratic state,” Pinchuk said.
Oleksandra Matviichuk of the Ukrainian 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 giving in to the aggressor’s pressure, it means protecting people of their cruelty.”
“Peace cannot be achieved by an attacked country that lays down its arms,” he said, his voice trembling with emotion. “This would not be peace, but occupation.”
Rebuke to Putin
The triple peace prize award was seen as a sharp rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin not only for his action in Ukraine, but also for the Kremlin’s crackdown on domestic opposition and its support for the brutal crackdown on dissidents. by Lukashenko.
The Russian Supreme Court closed Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and most prominent human rights organizations that was widely acclaimed for its studies on political repression in the Soviet Union, in December 2021.
Prior to that, the Russian government had declared the organization a “foreign agent,” a label that implies additional government scrutiny and carries strong pejorative connotations that can discredit the targeted organization.
Jan Rachinsky of Memorial said in his speech at the ceremony that “the current sad state of civil society in Russia is a direct consequence of its unresolved past.”
In particular, he denounced the Kremlin’s attempts to denigrate the history, statehood and independence of Ukraine and other former Soviet nations, saying that 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 media refer to the unprovoked armed invasion of a neighboring country, the annexation of territories, terror against civilians in the occupied areas and war crimes as justified by the need to fight fascism. ”.
While all the winners spoke in unison to condemn the war in Ukraine, there were also some stark differences.
Matviichuk specifically stated that “the Russian people will be responsible for this shameful page of their history and for their desire to forcibly restore the old empire.”
Rachinsky described the Russian aggression against his neighbor as a “monstrous charge” but strongly rejected the notion of “national guilt”.
“It is not worth talking about ‘national’ guilt or any other type of collective guilt; the notion of collective guilt is abhorrent to the fundamental principles of human rights,” he said. “The joint work of the participants of our movement is based on a completely different ideological foundation: on the understanding of civic responsibility for the past and for the present.”
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