During Saturday’s award ceremony in the Norwegian capital, the winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine discussed their visions for a kinder future and condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s conflict in Ukraine.
Oleksandra Matviichuk of the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties was selected a co-winner of the 2022 peace prize in October, together with the Russian human rights group Memorial and the president of the Belarusian rights group Viasna, Ales Bialiatski.
Saturday, Matviitchuk rejected proposals for a political solution that would allow Russia to retain some of the illegally acquired Ukrainian lands, stating that “working for peace does not imply surrendering to the aggressor’s pressure; rather, it means protecting people from its savagery.”
Emotionally trembling, she stated, “Peace cannot be achieved by a nation that is under attack laying down its arms.” This would be occupation, not peace.
Guests and members of Norway’s royal family cheer the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize recipients during the award event in Oslo’s City Hall on December 10, 2022. SERGEI GAPON/AFP courtesy of Getty Images
Matviitchuk reiterated her prior plea for Putin and Belarus’ autocratic President Alexander Lukashenko, who offered his country’s land for Russian forces to invade Ukraine, to be brought before an international court.
She stated, “We must demonstrate that the rule of law and justice exist, even if they are delayed.”
Bialiatski, who is imprisoned in Belarus pending his trial and faces up to 12 years in prison, was not permitted to send his speech. He shared a few ideas with his wife Natallia Pinchuk, who represented him at the prize ceremony, when they met in jail.
“In my hometown, the entire country of Belarus is in prison,” Bialiatski stated in Pinchuk’s speech, referring to a sweeping assault on the opposition following enormous protests over a fraudulent vote that Lukashenko used to extend his rule in August 2020. “This honor belongs to the tens of thousands of Belarusians who have endured beatings, torture, arrests, and imprisonment.”
In the 121-year history of the Nobel Prizes, Bialiatski is the fourth individual to earn the honor while in prison or confinement.
In words delivered through his wife, he portrayed Lukashenko as Putin’s tool, asserting that the Russian leader seeks to cement his dominance across the former Soviet territories.
He stated, “I know exactly what type of Ukraine would fit Russia and Putin: a dependent dictatorship.” “Similar to Belarus today, where the voice of the oppressed is neglected and dismissed.”
The triple peace prize was viewed as a stern rebuke to Putin, not just for his actions in Ukraine, but also for the Kremlin’s suppression of internal opposition and its support for Lukashenko’s violent imprisonment of dissenters.
In December 2021, the Supreme Court of Russia shut down Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and most important human rights groups, which was widely lauded for its research on political repression in the Soviet Union.
Prior to that, the Russian government had labeled the organization a “foreign agent,” a designation that indicates increased official inspection and has strong derogatory overtones that might damage the targeted organization.
In his lecture, Jan Rachinsky of Memorial stated that “the sorry state of civic society in Russia today is a direct result of its unsolved past.”
Specifically, he criticized the Kremlin’s efforts to degrade the history, statehood, and independence of Ukraine and other ex-Soviet republics, stating that it “provided the ideological pretext for the mad and illegal war of aggression on Ukraine.”
Rachinsky stated that one of the first victims of this craziness was the historical memory of Russia. “Now, Russian mass media justify the unprovoked armed invasion of a neighboring country, the annexation of lands, terror against citizens in the seized areas, and war crimes by the need to combat fascism.”
While all the winners condemned the war in Ukraine in unanimity, there were notable variances.
Matviichuk stated that “the Russian people will be held accountable for this horrible chapter in their history and their ambition to restore the former empire by force.”
Rachinsky referred to Russia’s assault towards its neighbor as a “horrendous weight” but vehemently rejected the concept of “national guilt.”
“It is pointless to discuss ‘national’ or any other collective guilt – the concept of collective guilt is repugnant to basic human rights values,” he stated. “The collective work of the members of our movement rests on a radically different intellectual foundation: an appreciation of civic duty for both the past and the present.”
In accordance with Alfred Nobel’s intention, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize since 1901. Saturday’s award ceremonies took place in the presence of King Olav V and Queen Sonja at the Oslo City Hall, while the other Nobel awards — for chemistry, physics, medicine, literature, and economics – were presented in Stockholm, the Swedish capital, later that day.
After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 epidemic, award ceremonies were held at the Concert Hall in Stockholm with almost 1,500 invited guests.