A trio representing the three nations at the center of the war in Ukraine will receive the Nobel Peace Prize on Saturday, showing no sign of giving up the fight against Vladimir Putin and his Minsk ally.
Jailed Belarusian human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski, Russian human rights organization Memorial, and Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties (CCL) will be presented with their awards at a formal ceremony in Oslo.
While the Peace Prize may be a small balm for the laureates’ souls, it has in no way weakened their resolve.
“Putin will stop when he will be stopped”, CCL head Oleksandra Matviichuk told reporters Friday at the Nobel Institute.
“Authoritarian leaders - see any attempt to dialogue as a sign of weakness”, she said, urging Western countries to continue to help Ukraine liberate its territories occupied by Russia, including Crimea.
The CCL has documented war crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine for the past eight years, crimes for which Matviichuk wants to see Russian President Putin and his ally, Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, brought to justice.
“This war has a genocidal character,” she said in English. “If Ukraine stops its resistance, there will be no more of us.”
“So I have no doubt that sooner or later Putin will appear before an international court.”
The chairman of the board of Memorial, Yan Rachinsky, agreed, while remaining more cautious in his remarks due to the penalties imposed by Moscow on those who criticize the conflict in Ukraine.
“Ukraine has to fight for its independence”, he said.
“Ukraine is not fighting for its interests alone. It is fighting for our joint peaceful future”.
“The choice before the international community … is between the unpleasant situation today and the catastrophe tomorrow”, he said.
Situation is ‘terrible’
Founded in 1989, Memorial has for decades shed light on crimes committed by Stalin’s totalitarian regime and worked to preserve the memory of the victims, as well as documented human rights violations in Russia.
The country’s Supreme Court ordered it dissolved at the end of 2021, and ordered a raid of its Moscow offices on October 7 – the very day it was announced as co-winner of this year’s Peace Prize.
“When it comes to rights defenders, at this juncture in Russia, the situation is terrible”, Rachinsky said.
The third co-laureate, Ales Bialiatski, founder of rights group Viasna, has been detained since July 2020 pending trial following Minsk’s crackdown on large-scale protests against the regime.
He faces 12 years in prison.
His wife Natalia Pinchuk, who will accept his Nobel prize on his behalf, said “the issue of Belarus is also being decided on the battlefield of Ukraine”.
She said Bialiatski – whom she has seen only once since his arrest, through a glass pane - was not authorized to give her an acceptance speech for the prestigious prize.
The ceremony at Oslo’s City Hall will start at 100pm (1200 GMT), attended by the Norwegian royal family and special dignitaries.
Meanwhile, in Stockholm, a separate awards ceremony will take place honoring the winners of the other Nobel prizes in the fields of medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and economics.
Also in attendance will be the laureates from 2020 and 2021, when the Stockholm festivities were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year’s laureates will receive a gold medal, diploma and cheque for 10m Swedish kronor ($970,000).