A Russian journalist auctioned off his Nobel Prize for US$103.5 million: he will use the money to help displaced children from Ukraine

An employee holds Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov’s 23-carat Nobel Peace Prize medal before it is auctioned at the Times Center on Monday, June 20, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

NEW YORK (AP).- The Nobel Peace Prize that the Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov offered at auction to raise money for Ukrainian refugee children sold for $103.5 million on Monday night, breaking the record for a Nobel for sale.

Previously, the largest amount had paid for a Nobel Prize medal was in 2014 when James Watson, one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA who won the Nobel Prize in 1962, sold his medal for $4.76 million.

In 2013, the family of the researcher with whom he shared the award, Francis Crick, received $2.27 million at an auction organized by Heritage Auctions, the same house that auctioned off the Muratov medal on a date that coincides with World Refugee Day.

Muratov, who received the gold medal in October 2021, helped found the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and was the publication’s editor when it closed in March amid Kremlin restrictions on journalists and dissidents at the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The journalist had the idea of ​​auctioning off his prize, after having recently announced that he would donate the $500,000 with which the award is endowed to charities. With this donation, he seeks to “give refugee children a chance at a future.”

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitri A. Muratov, former editor of the Russian daily

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitri A. Muratov, former editor of the Russian daily “Novaya Gazeta”

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitri A. Muratov, former editor of the Russian daily “Novaya Gazeta”

Muratov has said that proceeds will go directly to UNICEF to support efforts to help displaced children for the war in Ukraine.

Even if they decide to melt it down, the medal’s 23-carat, 175-gram gold could be worth about $10,000.

In an interview with the agency AP prior to the auction, Muratov said he was especially worried about children who have been orphaned for the conflict on Ukrainian territory. “We want to give them back their future,” he said.

He added that it is important that the international sanctions that have been imposed on Russia do not prevent humanitarian aid such as medicines for rare diseases and bone marrow transplants from reaching those who need them.

“Let it become the beginning of a collective activity, as an example to continue for people to auction off their valuable possessions to help UkrainiansMuratov said in a video released by Heritage Auctions, which held the auction without taking commission from the proceeds.

Muratov shared the Nobel Peace Prize last year with journalist Maria Ressa from the Philippines.

The two journalists, who each received a medal, were recognized for their respective struggles to preserve freedom of expression in their countries, despite being attacked, harassed and even receiving death threats.

Muratov has been highly critical of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the war that began in February, which has displaced nearly 5 million Ukrainians to other countries in search of safety, creating the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II.

In Russia, independent journalists are under the scrutiny of the Kremlin and some are directly targeted by the government. Since Putin came to power more than two decades ago, more than 20 journalists have been killed, including at least four who worked for Muratov’s newspaper. In April, Muratov said he was attacked with red paint aboard a Russian train.

Muratov left Russia for Western Europe on Thursday to begin his trip to New York, where the live bidding for his medal began on Monday afternoon.

Online bidding for the medal began on June 1 to coincide with International Children’s Day. As of Monday morning, $550,000 was being offered.

“It’s a tailor-made deal,” said Joshua Benesh, director of strategy at Heritage Auctions. “Not everyone in the world has a Nobel Prize up for auction and not every day of the week is there a Nobel Prize up for auction.”

Nobel Peace Prize winners Dmitry Muratov of Russia and Maria Ressa of the Philippines embrace during the award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Nobel Peace Prize winners Dmitry Muratov of Russia and Maria Ressa of the Philippines embrace during the award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Nobel Peace Prize winners Dmitry Muratov of Russia and Maria Ressa of the Philippines embrace during the award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Since its creation in 1901, there have been nearly 1,000 Nobel Prize laureates in fields such as physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and advocacy for peace.

The war and humanitarian efforts to alleviate the suffering of those affected in Ukraine will generate interest, Benesh said, though he added that it was difficult to predict how much they would be willing to pay for the medal.

“I think there will definitely be some excitement on Monday,” Benesh said. “It is such a unique object, sold under unique circumstances… Such an important act of generosity and such an important humanitarian crisis.”

Muratov and Heritage officials said those who are not interested in the medal but want to help can do so by donating directly to UNICEF.

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A Russian journalist auctioned off his Nobel Prize for US$103.5 million: he will use the money to help displaced children from Ukraine