Oct 7, 2022 - World

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to activists in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine

Ales Bialiatski in a cage during a court session in Minsk, Belarus, in 2011.

Ales Bialiatski in a cage during a court session in Minsk, Belarus, in 2011. Photo: Sergei Grits/AP

The Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded on Friday to Ales Bialiatski, a detained activist in Belarus, Russian human rights organization Memorial and Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties.

The big picture: The prize comes at a critical time in Russia's invasion. A Ukrainian counteroffensive has pushed back Russian forces in some areas annexed by the Kremlin, a move widely denounced by western countries as illegal.

  • The committee said it wanted to honor "three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence" in the neighboring countries of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. It was a strong rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on his 70th birthday.
  • Last year's award was shared by two journalists — Dmitry Muratov of Russia and Maria Ressa of the Philippines. It's the second straight year a Russian entity won the prize.

Driving the news: Bialiatski was a leader of the Belarus democracy movement that emerged in the 1980s. He was imprisoned between 2011 and 2014 and arrested again during widespread protests against a rigged election in 2020.

  • Memorial, established in the late 1980s, was Russia's largest human rights organization after the Soviet Union's collapse. The Russian government forced its liquidation in 2021, but "the people behind Memorial refuse to be shut down," the committee said.
  • The Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine was founded in 2007 to promote human rights and democracy. The panel cited the group's "efforts to identify and document Russian war crimes against the Ukrainian civilian population."

What they're saying: The "laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens," the award's committee said.

  • "They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power," the panel added. "Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy."
  • Berit Reiss-Andersen, the committee's chair, used the announcement to call on Belarus to release Bialiatski from prison.
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