Putin’s birthday present: Nobel Peace Prize for rights activists

EuroActiv Politico News

The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize has gone to jailed Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian human rights organization Memorial, and the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties.

However, Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel committee, was at pains to point out that the award was not meant as a rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who turned 70 on Friday.

The prize was “not against anyone,” Reiss-Andersen said in her speech in Oslo, and was not “addressing President Putin, not for his birthday nor anything else.”

Reiss-Andersen said the three joint winners “demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy,” and share the vision of “peace and fraternity” between nations of the founder of the prize, Alfred Nobel.

Bialiatski founded the human rights group Viasna in 1996 following a brutal crackdown on street protests by Belarus’ authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin.

Bialiatski, 60, was detained last July as part of a crackdown on the opposition by Lukashenko. Reiss-Andersen said Bialiatski had “not yielded one inch for his fight for human rights.”

Belarusian Foreign Minister Anatoly Glaz denounced the honor going to Bialiatski, saying that the Nobel committee’s decisions are “so politicised” that Alfred Nobel “is turning in his grave.”

Memorial was founded in the late 1980s to document political repression carried out under the Soviet Union, Last December, a Russian court ordered Memorial to be closed down, accusing its staff of being “foreign agents.”

The Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties was founded in 2007 as a platform for human rights organizations from former Soviet countries. It has organized campaigns pressuring the Kremlin to release political prisoners and has been documenting Russian war crimes during the invasion.