Nobel Peace Prize to activists from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine

The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to imprisoned Belarusian rights activist Ales Bialiatski and two organizations.

Human rights activist Bialiatski was announced as the winner on Friday by Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of Norway’s Nobel Committee.

The Russian group Memorial and the Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties also received the prestigious award.

The selection came as a surprise to many, especially after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny were also nominated.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Zelenskyy emerged as a world hero, standing up to the Kremlin’s strongman and staying on home soil despite mounting deaths.

Meanwhile, Navalny, Putin’s fiercest opponent, is now in a Russian “torture prison” after accusing Putin of corruption and war crimes.

The awards committee decided to honor Bialiatski, 60, after he famously helped spark the pro-democracy movement that began in Belarus in the 1980s.

He has been behind bars since 2021 for tax evasion, which is widely believed to be politically motivated. He served a previous sentence from October 2011 to June 2014 on the same charge.

The Nobel Committee said the founder of the organization Viasna – which translates to spring – “has dedicated his life to promoting democracy and peaceful development in his homeland”.

Byalyatsky, who opposed authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, has been detained without trial since 2020. Reiss-Andersen called on Belarus to release him from custody.

“This year’s award winners represent civil society in their home countries,” said the awards committee at the announcement. “For many years you have been campaigning for the right to criticize power and protect the basic rights of citizens.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, Chairwoman of the Nobel Committee, announces the winner of this year's Peace Prize at the Nobel Institute in Oslo
Berit Reiss-Andersen, Chairwoman of the Nobel Committee, announces the winner of this year’s Peace Prize at the Nobel Institute in Oslo.

“They have gone to great lengths to document war crimes, human rights violations and abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the importance of civil society for peace and democracy.”

Shortly after the announcement, Belarusian opposition spokesman Franak Viacorka said Bialiatski was being held in inhumane conditions.

“He is being held in inhumane conditions and we hope it will help free him and thousands of others from Lukashenko’s and KGB’s cells,” Viacorka said.

Russian human rights organization Memorial and Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties also received the decorated award on Friday.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee would like to honor three outstanding advocates of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence in neighboring Belarus, Russia and Ukraine,” said Reiss-Andersen.

Reiss-Andersen downplayed suggestions that the choice of this year’s three winners was a targeted message to Putin on his 70th birthday. She said the award is always given to someone for something and not “against someone”.

It was expected that either Zelenskyy or Navalny would emerge victorious at this year’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

Navalny was initially sentenced to two and a half years in prison in February 2021 for violating probation after he voluntarily returned from Germany, where he was recovering in Russia from apparent poisoning with the neurotoxin Novichok, which he accuses the Kremlin of ordering.

On March 24, Navalny was sentenced to an additional nine years in prison for fraud and contempt of court. The high-profile dissident says the charges against him are fabricated and politically motivated.

The judge ordered Navalny, who has called Russia’s war in Ukraine “stupid”, to be transferred to a maximum security prison where his visiting and correspondence rights will be restricted. Nobel Peace Prize to activists from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine


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