Nobel Peace Prize winners criticize Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

OSLO – This year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine shared their visions of a fairer world and condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine during the awards ceremony on Saturday.

Oleksandra Matviichuk of the Ukraine Center for Civil Liberties dismissed calls for a political compromise that would allow Russia to keep some of Ukraine’s illegally annexed territories, saying that “fighting for peace does not mean yielding to pressure from the aggressor, but to protect people from cruelty.”

“Peace cannot be achieved by an attacked country laying down its arms,” ​​she said, her voice shaking with emotion. “That would not be peace, but an occupation.”

repeated Matviichuk their previous call for Putin – and the authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenkowho gave his country’s territory to Russian troops to invade Ukraine – to face an international tribunal.

“We have to prove that the rule of law works and that justice exists, even if it’s delayed,” she said.

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 Belarusian rights group Viasna. Later on Saturday, the other Nobel Prizes will be presented at a ceremony in Stockholm.

Bialiatski, who is being held in Belarus pending trial and faces up to 12 years in prison, was not allowed to broadcast his speech. He shared some thoughts while meeting in prison with his wife Natallia Pinchuk, who spoke on his behalf at the awards ceremony.

“In my home country, all of Belarus is in prison,” Bialiatski said in Pinchuk’s remarks – in reference to a sweeping crackdown on the opposition following massive protests over a fraudulent August 2020 vote that Lukashenko used to extend his rule . “This award belongs to all my human rights defender friends, all citizen activists, tens of thousands of Belarusians who have endured beatings, torture, arrests and imprisonment.”

Bialiatski is the fourth person in the 121-year history of the Nobel Prizes to receive the award in prison or in detention.

In his wife’s remarks, he called Lukashenko a tool of Putin and said the Russian leader was trying to establish his rule over the former Soviet countries.

“I know exactly what kind of Ukraine would suit Russia and Putin – a dependent dictatorship,” he said. “The same as in Belarus today, where the voice of the oppressed people is ignored and disregarded.”

The award of the triple peace prize was seen as a strong rebuke to Putin, not only for his actions in Ukraine, but also for the Kremlin’s crackdown on the domestic opposition and its support for Lukashenko’s brutal repression of dissidents.

The Russian Supreme Court shut down Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and best-known human rights organizations, widely recognized for its studies of political repression in the Soviet Union, in December 2021.

Previously, the Russian government had declared the organization a “foreign agent” — a label that implies additional state control and carries heavily pejorative connotations that can discredit the target organization.

Memorial’s Jan Rachinsky said in his speech that “the sad state of civil society in Russia today is a direct consequence of its unresolved past”.

He particularly condemned the Kremlin’s attempts to denigrate the history, statehood and independence of Ukraine and other states of the former Soviet Union, saying that this “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 mass media refer to the unprovoked armed invasion of a neighboring country, the annexation of territories, terror against civilians in the occupied territories and war crimes justified by the need to fight fascism.”

While all victors unanimously condemned the war in Ukraine, there were also some notable differences.

Matviichuk explicitly stated that “the Russian people will be responsible for this shameful page in their history and their desire to restore the former empire by force”.

Rachinsky called Russian aggression against its neighbor a “huge burden” but firmly rejected the term “national guilt”.

“It’s not even worth talking about ‘national’ or any other collective guilt – the concept of collective guilt abhors basic human rights principles,” he said. “The joint work of the participants in our movement is based on a completely different ideological basis – on the understanding of civic responsibility for the past and for the present.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Nobel Peace Prize winners criticize Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Sarah Y. Kim

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