BRUSSELS (HPD) — The European Union awarded its highest human rights award Wednesday to the Ukrainian people and their representatives for their resistance to the Russian invasion and ongoing war.
The award, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, was created in 1988 to honor individuals or groups who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms. Sakharov, who received the Nobel Peace Prize, died in 1989.
For the second year in a row, European lawmakers used the Sakharov Prize to send a message to the Kremlin. Last year, the award went to imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Designating Ukraine, lawmakers praised President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his “courage, resilience and devotion to his people” and highlighted the role of state emergency services.
They also mentioned, among others, Yulia Pajevska, founder of the Angeles de Taira medical evacuation unit; human rights activist Oleksandra Matviychuk; the Yellow Ribbon civil resistance movement and Ivan Fedorov, mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol.
Ukrainians have shown their resilience in nearly eight months of war, despite a surge in attacks in recent weeks.
Since the start of their counter-offensive in late August, Ukrainian forces have recaptured large swathes of their territory, dealing a heavy blow to Russia.
“They fight for what they believe in. They fight for our values. They protect democracy, freedom and the rule of law. They risk their lives for us,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola wrote on Twitter. “No one deserves it more. Congratulations to the brave people of Ukraine!”