The announcement of this year’s Nobel Peace Prizeawarded to imprisoned Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian group Memorial and the Ukrainian organization Center for Civil Liberties, has drawn mixed reviews from world leaders, officials and human rights groups.
In a tweet, the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, praised “the exceptional courage of the women and men who oppose autocracy”.
But there were mixed emotions among the Ukrainian voices.
Kyiv’s Ambassador to Germany Andrij Melnyk called the inclusion of Russia and Belarus “really devastating”.
While Anna Trushova, head of communications at the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, said she was delighted to receive the recognition.
“When we heard the news, we were stunned. It was a great start to the day. We didn’t expect it. We consider this award a respectable recognition of our business,” she said.
Wife of winner Ales Bialiatski, an imprisoned Belarusian human rights activist – and founder of the Viasna Human Rights Center, Ales Bialiatski said in a Telegram post that she felt “happy” for the “unexpected” prize which she considers a “reward for her hard work”.
Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya also welcomed the announcement, calling the award “an important recognition for all Belarusians who fight for freedom and democracy”. She urged all political prisoners to be “released without delay”.
“Ales Bialiatski has now been in prison for more than a year and he is suffering a lot in the disciplinary cells of the prison. But there are thousands of other people who are detained because of their political opinions,” Tsikhanouskaya said.
A spokesperson for the Russian Memorial Human Rights Center said the award was proof that the work he was doing was worth it.
“It is for us, it is a sign that our work, whether it is recognized by the Russian authorities or not, is important. It is important for the world. It is important for people in Russia”, said a board member of the Memorial Human Advocacy Center, Tatyana Glushkova.
Memorial received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2009. But Russian authorities ordered the closure of its umbrella organization Memorial International last year, accusing it of breaking the Foreign Agents Law.