The Nobel Peace Prize and Putin

The announcement of the winners of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, on the same day as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 70th birthday, seemed more like a forceful symbolic gesture against him than the mere coincidence that was warned. And although the Norwegian Committee was quick to clarify that the award was not against the lord and master of the Kremlin “neither for its anniversary nor in any other sense”, it was clear that there was a direct message against Moscow, not only because the award was granted to human rights defenders who have been its victims, but because for the second consecutive year it has to do with the fight for freedom in Russia.

If in 2021 Dmitri Murátov, director of the Russian newspaper ‘Nóvaya Gazeta’, was awarded, now there are two NGOs – one Russian and one Ukrainian – and the director of another from Belarus who claim the prestigious award in the midst of the brutal aggression against Ukraine and internal repression: the Belarusian Ales Bialiatski, founding president of the Center for the Defense of Human Rights Viasna (Spring), the Russian NGO Memorial – whose dissolution was ordered by the Russian authorities – and the Center for Civil Liberties of Ukraine. The Committee defined them as “defenders of human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence”.

His work has not been easy. Bialiatski is in prison after the massive 2020 demonstrations against the re-election of dictator Alexander Lukashenko, considered fraudulent by the West. Belarus has served as a springboard for Russian troops to jump into Ukraine in the war and has become a satellite and sponsor of Russian aggression in the region, to the point that its sovereignty has been practically erased through a systematic elimination of freedoms, the rule of law and democracy.

It is instructive that in times of war the Norwegian Committee praises the contribution of civil society as the vanguard of democracies

In the case of Memorial, it is probably the most powerful Russian NGO. Founded by Soviet dissidents, including Andrei Sakharov, it has earned their respect by documenting and investigating for 30 years the crimes of the Stalinist era, and now those of the Putin era in Chechnya, and those committed by Russian paramilitaries, in Syria.

For its part, the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine has been compiling the war crimes charged to Russian troops in the current conflict. Founded in 2007, it gained prominence after the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and the subsequent armed conflict with pro-Russian separatists. His letter has been the international campaign for the release of arbitrarily detained Ukrainians.

It is instructive that in times of war, of regional tensions, such as those unleashed in the Far East by the launch of missiles from North Korea, and of deinstitutionalization, the Norwegian Committee praises the contribution and value of civil society as the vanguard of democracies and guardian of respect for human rights and the search for peace. It is a work on the ground, selfless and suffering, which often rises like a wall against abuses of power. In that sense, it is an award for citizens around the world who fight for a peaceful and better world.


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The Nobel Peace Prize and Putin