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Nobel Peace Prize winners slam Putin's 'insane' war

December 10, 2022

The Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian winners of the Nobel Peace Prize denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine during the award ceremony in Norway.

From left: Natalia Pinchuk, the wife of Belarusian rights activist Ales Bialiatski, Yan Rachinsky, chair of the International Memorial Board and Oleksandra Matviychuk, head of Ukraine's Center for Civil Liberties pose with awards during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at Oslo City Hall, Norway, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022.
The Nobel Peace prize winners this year are all connected to the conflict in UkraineImage: Markus Schreiber/AP Photo/picture alliance

Human rights activists from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus were hailed as "champions of peace" on Saturday as they took possession of this year's Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

The now-banned Russian human rights organization Memorial, the Center for Civil Liberties (CCL) from Kyiv and imprisoned Belarusian human rights lawyer Ales Bialiatski were honored with the world's most prestigious political award.

The winners were honored for their many years of work criticizing those in power and defending essential civil rights.

Their groups went to great lengths to document war crimes, human rights abuses and abuses of power, the prize jury said. 

Saturday's prize-giving coincided with the UN's Human Rights Day, which commemorates the 74th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Bialiatski has been in prison in Belarus for a year and a half, so was represented by his wife, Natalia Pinchuk. Representatives from CCL and Memorial, however, were able to personally receive the medals and diplomas. They used their speeches to denounce Russian President Vladimir Putin for launching his "insane and criminal" invasion of Ukraine.

Rights campaigners win Nobel Peace Prize

Surrender is not real peace

"The people of Ukraine want peace more than anyone else in the world. But peace cannot be reached by a country under attack laying down its arms," the head of the CCL, Oleksandra Matviichuk, said.

Founded in 2007, the CCL has documented more than 27,000 cases of war crimes allegedly committed by Russian troops in Ukraine, which she said were "only the tip of the iceberg."

Matviichuk reiterated her appeal for an international tribunal to judge Putin, his ally Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and "other war criminals."

Her Russian co-laureate Yan Rachinsky, the chairperson of the human rights organization Memorial, denounced Russia's "imperial ambitions" inherited from the ex-Soviet Union "that still thrive today."

Putin and his "ideological servants" have hijacked the anti-fascist struggle "for their own political interests," he said.

Now, "resistance to Russia is called 'fascism'" and has become "the ideological justification for the insane and criminal war of aggression against Ukraine," Rachinsky added.

Belarusian activist's words delivered by wife

Pinchuk spoke on behalf of Bialiatski, who faces a prison sentence in Belarus of up to 12 years for tax evasion — charges his supporters say are trumped up.

"In my homeland, the entirety of Belarus is in a prison,'' he said in the remarks delivered by Pinchuk, in reference to a sweeping crackdown on opposition protests against strongman Alexander Lukashenko's August 2020 fraud-tainted election win.

"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.''

Nobel panel announces winners of Peace Prize

Stockholm hosts other Nobel winners

The Nobel prizes for chemistry, physics, medicine, literature and economics were presented later Saturday. After a two-year COVID-19 pandemic break, award ceremonies took place at Stockholm's Concert Hall with nearly 1,500 invited guests.

Annie Ernaux of France won the literature prize, Barry Sharpless of the United States won the chemistry prize for the second time, Svante Paabo of Sweden took the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the study of human evolution, while Alain Aspect, John F Clauser and Anton Zeilinger, scientists based in France, the US and Austria, accepted the Nobel Prize in Physics for work on quantum information science.

Former US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and economists Douglas Diamond and Philip Dybvig received the Nobel economics prize for their research on how a deeper economic crisis can be averted by propping up failing banks.

US chemist K. Barry Sharpless, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2022 laureate Swedish geneticist Svante Paabo, Nobel Prize in Literature 2022 laureate French writer Annie Ernaux and Laureate of The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2022 Ben Bernanke are seen during the start of the Nobel Prize award ceremony for literature, science and economy at the Concert Hall in Stockholm, Sweden on December 10, 2022
The Nobel prizes for chemistry, physics, medicine, literature and economics were awarded in Stockholm, SwedenImage: AFP via Getty Images

Many strong economies are struggling this year with high inflation and a looming recession, as the conflict in Ukraine has led to an energy crisis and affected food supplies and prices.

Who is invited to this year's banquet?

The list of invitees to the banquet held after this year's ceremony in Stockholm has stirred some controversy. Traditionally attended by the Swedish royal family, government officials and dignitaries from different countries, some names have been intentionally left off this year's guest list.

One such name is Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the Sweden Democrats. The anti-immigration, right-wing party became the second-biggest in parliament after elections in September.

The ambassadors of Russia and Belarus were also left off the guest list.

The Nobel Prize was founded by Alfred Nobel to present prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace.

The dynamite inventor left behind some 31 million crowns, equal to $174.2 million (roughly €165 million) in today's money to fund the prizes, awarded annually since 1901.

mm, rmt/fb (AFP, Reuters)