Nobel Peace Prize Is Awarded to Rights Advocates in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus

From a New York Times story headlined “Nobel Peace Prize Is Awarded to Rights Advocates in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus”:

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on Friday to rights advocates in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus who have become symbols of resistance and accountability at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has set off the largest ground war in Europe since World War II.

The laureates — Ales Bialiatski, a jailed Belarusian activist; Memorial, a Russian organization; and the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine — have emerged as some of the starkest challengers to the widespread misinformation and harmful myths disseminated by authoritarian leaders and fueled by globalization, digital connectedness and new methods of surveillance.

“The Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries,” Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said in announcing the awards. “They have for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens.”

The committee said it had chosen the three laureates because it wanted to honor the champions of “human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence” in the neighboring countries of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.

Their work has taken on new significance since February, when President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine, displacing millions of people and destabilizing the entire region.

The prize was an implicit rebuke to Mr. Putin, whose tenure has been punctuated with violent crackdowns on dissidents and critics at home — and whose 70th birthday was on Friday, an overlap noted by several observers.

“On Putin’s 70th birthday, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to a Russian human rights group that he shut down, a Ukrainian human rights group that is documenting his war crimes, and a Belarusian human rights activist whom his ally Lukashenko has imprisoned,” Kenneth Roth, the former executive director of Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter.

Asked whether this year’s choice of winners was “a timely birthday president,” Ms. Reiss-Andersen said, “This prize is not addressing President Putin, not for his birthday or in any other sense — except that his government, as the government in Belarus, is representing an authoritarian government that is suppressing human rights activists.”

The Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine has engaged in efforts to identify and document evidence of Russian war crimes since the invasion began, Ms. Reiss-Andersen said, adding that the group was “playing a pioneering role with a view to holding the guilty parties accountable for their crimes.”

The committee praised the organization for taking a stand to “strengthen Ukrainian civil society and pressure the authorities to make Ukraine a full-fledged democracy.”

There were 343 candidates for this year’s prize, including 251 people and 92 organizations — the second-highest total ever, trailing only 2016. Although there was no clear front-runner, some of the names attracting attention included President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine; Aleksei A. Navalny, a jailed Russian dissident; Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a Belarusian opposition politician; the World Health Organization; and the International Court of Justice.

Mr. Zelensky was the bookmakers’ favorite.

Last year, the Peace Prize was shared by two journalists, Maria Ressa and Dmitry A. Muratov, “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace,” the Nobel committee said.

Mr. Muratov, the editor in chief of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, has been described as one of the most prominent defenders of free speech in Russia. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Novaya Gazeta was forced to suspend publication amid mounting government censorship.

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