Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner says authorities ordered him to decline award

Representatives of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, from left: Oleksandra Matviichuk, head of the Center for Civil Liberties, Jan Rachinsky, Chairman of the Board of the International “Memorial” and Natallia Pintsyuk, the wife of Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatski attend a press conference on the eve of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. (AP Photo/ Markus Schreiber)

The Russian co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize said the country’s authorities ordered him to decline the award because his fellow co-winners were a Ukrainian human rights organization and a jailed Belarusian rights defender. 

Yan Rachinsky — who leads one of Russia’s oldest civil rights groups, Memorial — told the BBC in an interview that he was told to turn down the prize because the other winners were deemed “inappropriate,” but he ignored the advice.

The Russian government shut down Memorial last year, but Rachinsky said its work is still essential. 

“In today’s Russia, no-one’s personal safety can be guaranteed,” he said. “Yes, many have been killed. But we know what impunity of the state leads to … We need to get out of this pit somehow.” 

Rachinsky said the Nobel committee awarding the prize to three recipients in different countries was “remarkable” and proof that “civil society is not divided by national borders, that it is a single body working to solve common problems.” 

The other winners were Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties and Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, who has been imprisoned without trial in his country since July of last year. He created the Viasna Human Rights Centre in 1996 to oppose a crackdown on protests by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. 

Lukashenko has positioned himself as a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has allowed Russian forces to launch missiles into Ukraine from Belarus’s territory throughout Moscow’s war on Kyiv. 

Rachinsky said in his speech accepting the award at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on Saturday that Putin has considered resistance to Russia to be “fascism,” which he said has become “the ideological justification for the insane and criminal war of aggression against Ukraine,” CNN reported.

Tags Alexander Lukashenko civil rights human rights Memorial Nobel Peace Prize Nobel Peace Prize Nobel Prize Russia Russia-Ukraine conflict Vladimir Putin Yan Rachinsky

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