Nobel Peace Prize lauded for rights activists

BERLIN (HPD) — Officials in Europe have praised the awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to human rights activists in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, while authorities in Belarus have rejected the decision.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February has further strained Moscow’s relations with its Western neighbors. Before the war, President Vladimir Putin’s backing of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, and Syrian President Bashar Assad, in addition to his crackdown on political opponents in the country such as Alexei Navalny, had sparked tensions with Europe. .

“I hope that the Russian authorities will read the rationale for the Nobel Prize and take it seriously,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said after the Nobel Committee awarded the 2022 prize to imprisoned Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian group Memorial and the Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties.

“It sends a message that suppressing civil society is protecting personal power. It is seen from the outside and it is criticized,” he added.

French President Emmanuel Macron praised the laureates, tweeting that their award “pays tribute to the steadfast defenders of human rights in Europe.”

“Artisans of peace, they know they can count on the support of France,” he said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg congratulated the winners, saying on Twitter that “the right to tell the truth is a fundamental freedom in free and open societies.”

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said the award should be seen against the background of the war in Ukraine.

“There is a war in Europe. Your work for peace and human rights is therefore more important than ever,” he told the winners. “Thanks for that”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the three laureates “fully deserved” the award.

“The courage, passion and clarity with which they are fighting for freedom and justice deserve the greatest respect,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of European leaders in Prague.

In Paris, exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told The Associated Press that the award was “a recognition of all the people who are sacrificing their freedom and their lives for Belarus.”

“Physically, this prize will not influence their situation, but I am sure that it will influence the spirits and intentions of other countries to help these imprisoned people,” she said.

Over the past two years, the Belarusian government has launched a violent crackdown on journalists and protesters who say the 2020 presidential election was rigged, beating thousands, detaining tens of thousands, and charging human rights defenders in cases that the opposition says they are politically motivated.

Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarusian journalist and writer who won the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature, called Bialitsky a “legendary figure.”

“What Viasna, founded by him, has done and is doing in the current circumstances is in his spirit, in his philosophy,” Alexievich told reporters on Friday.

Meanwhile, Belarus’ foreign ministry said the Nobel committee’s decision to award Bialiatski the prize was “politicized.”

The ministry spokesman said that “in recent years, numerous important decisions – and we are talking about the peace prize – of the Nobel committee have been so politicized that, I am sorry to say, Alfred Nobel grew tired of turning over in his grave.”

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