The winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize have shared their visions of a fairer world and denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
In a speech at Saturday’s award ceremony, Oleksandra Matviichuk, of Ukraine’s Centre for Civil Liberties, dismissed calls for a political compromise that would allow Russia to retain some of the illegally annexed Ukrainian territories.
She said: “Fighting for peace does not mean yielding to pressure of the aggressor, it means protecting people from its cruelty.
She repeated her earlier call for Mr Putin — and Belarus’s authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who hosted Russian troops for the invasion of 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.
Ms 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.
Mr Bialiatski, who is jailed in Belarus pending his trial and faces a prison sentence of up to 12 years, was not allowed to send his speech. He shared a few thoughts from jail and his wife, Natallia Pinchuk, spoke on his behalf at the award ceremony in Stockhoilm.
“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.”
He is the fourth person in the 121-year history of the Nobel Prizes to receive the award while in prison or detention.
He cast Mr Lukashenko as a tool of Mr 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 the Russian leader, not only for his action in Ukraine but for the Kremlin’s crackdown on domestic opposition and its support for Mr Lukashenko’s repression of dissenters.
Before 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.
Jan Rachinsky of Memorial said in his speech: “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,” Mr 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.”