At Nobel Event, Peace-Prize Trio Blisters Putin And Cheers Ukrainians

Oslo : Representatives for the Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Russian trio awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize amid the full-scale war in Ukraine and crackdowns on dissent by Moscow and Minsk have received the awards at a ceremony at Oslo City Hall in the Norwegian capital and spoken defiantly of opposing authoritarian forces.

The Kyiv-based Center for Civil Liberties, which has chronicled alleged atrocities since Russian troops invaded in February, were chosen for the award in October along with the banned Russian rights group Memorial and the jailed Belarusian founder of the Vyasna rights group, Ales Byalyatski.

Byalyatski’s wife, Natalia Pinchuk, expressed her husband’s feelings about his sacrifices despite Belarusian authorities’ reported refusal to allow him to provide remarks for the event.

“I don’t regret,” she told Nobel organizers, fellow laureates, and dignitaries at the event on behalf of her husband, “Because my dreams are worth it.”

In a pointed rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his ally still wielding power in Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, lawyer Berit Reiss-Andersen, said, “The world needs those admirable individuals and groups of people who at great personal sacrifice stand up against aggression in pursuit of democracy, human rights, and peace.”

The selection committee in October cited Byalyatski’s and the two groups’ “outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses, and the abuse of power” while demonstrating “the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.”

“I want to ask the right questions so we can start to look for answers,” Oleksandra Matviychuk, director of the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, told the ceremony. “How can we make human rights relevant once more?”

She also said, “The people of Ukraine want peace more than anyone else in the world.”

“But,” Matviychuk added, “peace cannot be reached by a country under attack laying down its arm. This would not be peace, but occupation.”

“The fact that we receive the award together is an extra award for us,” Yan Rachinsky, Memorial International’s chairman, said.

He said that under Putin “resistance to Russia is called ‘fascism'” and has become “the ideological justification for the insane and criminal war of aggression against Ukraine.”

Pinchuk dedicated her husband’s stake in the prize to “millions of Belarusian citizens who stood up and took action in the streets and online to defend their civil rights” despite a brutal crackdown by Lukashenka’s thugs.

A day earlier, she accused Moscow of seeking to subjugate Belarus, too, under Lukashenka’s watch.

“I know exactly what kind of Ukraine would suit Russia and Putin: a dependent dictatorship,” Pinchuk said. “The same as today’s Belarus, where the voice of the oppressed people is ignored and disregarded.”

All three of the honorees’ representatives expressed support a day earlier for a possible war crimes tribunal targeting Putin.

At a joint press appearance on the eve of the gathering, they also suggested they were confident Putin would eventually face justice for his role in the largest foreign invasion in Europe since World War II.

“”I have no doubt that sooner or later Putin will appear before a public court,” Matviychuk said.

She accused Russia of using atrocities to try to break Ukrainians’ spirit in the 9-month-old conflict, which sparked unprecedented Western financial, political, and diplomatic sanctions but also hurtled much of the world into fuel and food crises.

Matviychuk said Putin and Aleksandr Lukashenka, who has claimed a disputed sixth term as leader of Belarus since a flawed 2020 election that sparked massive protests, use similarly repressive measures to stay in power.

“They believe they can do whatever they want,” Matviychuk said. “And now we must break this circle of impunity, form an international tribunal and make Lukashenka, Putin, and other perpetrators accountable — not only for the sake of Ukrainians but also for other countries and peoples of the world.”

Byalyatski awaits yet another trial that critics say is politically motivated.

He won the Nobel for his actions since founding the Vyasna rights group.

Sixty-year-old Byalyatski and three of his Vyasna colleagues are currently facing trial in Belarus for alleged smuggling and tax evasion and could spend up to 12 more years in prison if convicted.

The Memorial group, which long documented Soviet-era crimes but also tracked Putin-era abuses, was labeled an “undesirable” organization by Russian authorities.

Rachinsky also expressed confidence on December 9 that war crimes won’t go unpunished.

“This is important for the whole society — for society to understand that crimes will be punished. This allows people to fight the fear, which today is much greater than in 1987,” Rachinsky said in a reference to grudging reforms allowed by the ruling Communists in the waning days of the Soviet Union.

“Unfortunately, since the mid-1990s, work has gone in the opposite direction in Russia,” Rachinsky said.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have been killed and millions displaced by the full-scale invasion by Russian troops crossing into Ukraine from Russia and Belarus since late February.

Tens of thousands of Russian casualties have also mounted as what Moscow appeared to believe would be a quick victory has given way to trench warfare as Ukrainians with Western backing mount a powerful defense of their territory.

Matviychuk told journalists in Oslo that this war has “a genocidal character.”

“Putin will stop when he will be stopped,” she added.

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