Analysis | The Nobel Peace Prize, a scratch against Putin? | War in Ukraine

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Analysis | The Nobel Peace Prize, a swipe at Putin? | War in Ukraine

Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chairwoman of the Nobel committee, made the announcement of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureates on Friday in Oslo, Norway.

A Nobel Peace Prize against a backdrop of war. Winners from enemy countries: a lost empire that wants to rebuild itself, a small neighboring dictatorship and their common enemy, invaded and dismembered. Two organizations and one individual that all belong to the same geographical space: Russia-Belarus-Ukraine – the modern circle of hell in the northern hemisphere.

The organization Memorial, banned by the Russian regime, the Center for Civil Liberties, a Ukrainian organization that tracks war crimes, and an imprisoned opponent from Belarus therefore share this prize Nobel 2022.

Is this a deliberate swipe at the Moscow autocrat on his 70th birthday?

Nobel Committee officials, who were asked the question on the morning of October 7, replied that the Nobel Peace Prize is not against [someone], but for [individuals, groups, works exemplary, ideas].

In this case, according to the committee's statement of justification, we wanted to highlight the fight for rights and freedoms, democracy, peaceful coexistence, as well as the vital role of civil society in this region of the world.

It is a Nobel Prize whose theme is directly linked to the Russian invasion that Ukraine has been experiencing for almost eight months, and that Europe and the rest of the world are experiencing, by extension, anguished by the nuclear threat agitated by Moscow man. A threat taken seriously in Washington, where President Joe Biden had spoken the day before of the risk of a nuclear apocalypse.

These Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian laureates have in common their commitment to rights and freedoms and their rejection of the imperialist vision of the Kremlin.

While some Nobel prize winners seek out forgotten or having only an indirect relationship with peace, it is caught up in the hottest news, in this year of great violence in Europe. A reward that seems to hit the bull's eye with its appropriateness and apparent sense of balance… but not everyone agrees on this point.

Three human rights defenders have won the Nobel Peace Prize: the Russian NGO Memorial, the Belarusian opponent Aliesh Bialiatski and Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties. Each in their own way, they fight the Kremlin and stand up to President Vladimir Putin. Lise Villeneuve's review.

On the Ukrainian side, what is this decorated Tsentr hromadianskikh svobod [Center for Civil Liberties]? How does it deserve the Nobel Prize?

It was founded in kyiv in 2007, long before current events and even before 2014, when Russia and its sympathizers [or accomplices] in Ukraine had snatched territories in the Donbass and Crimea from kyiv, in a prelude to the raging war.

Civil Liberties Center employees celebrate their Nobel Prize.

Initially, the Center dealt with rights and freedoms and could find itself in contradiction with the Ukrainian government – ​​in particular the pro-Russian government of former President Viktor Yanukovych (2010-2014), whose actions, legislation, repression… always in terms of rights and freedoms and education for democracy. He also happened to scratch his pro-Western predecessor Viktor Yushchenko.

But the group really took off during the siege of Maidan, in the center of kyiv in the winter of 2013-2014, then later in 2014 with the events in Crimea and of Donbass. By scrupulously recording all evidence of repression, with the idea of ​​one day administering justice against those guilty of abuses and exactions, regardless of their camp.

The role of the Center was further amplified in 2022 after the invasion by Russia and the myriad of war crimes that followed.

The head of this center s called Oleksandra Matviychuk. One of his declared goals, his dream, would be to one day bring before an international tribunal, with concrete evidence, figures like Presidents Alexander Lukashenko [Belarus] and Vladimir Putin. A wish that still seems distant, as recognized by the president of the Nobel committee.

The Memorial organization, for its part, has been banned since last December by Russian justice.

It was founded in Moscow in 1989, in the great period of glasnost and perestroika, when the winds of freedom were blowing thanks to President Mikhail Gorbachev. Organization founded among others by the physicist Andrei Sakharov, with the support of Gorbachev… themselves Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Basically, it was an organization dedicated primarily to the memory of the victims of power in the USSR, aiming to shed light on the gray areas, the brutalities of Russian and Soviet history, which periodically come back to haunt the world.

Yan Rachinsky, one of the founders of Memorial, and Oleg Orlov, one of the organization's activists, received the Nobel Peace Prize.

His essential work: investigations by historians, countless testimonies on the great tragedy of Stalinism… but also on more recent exactions committed by Russia, in particular in the two wars of Chechnya and during that of Syria. With meticulous documentary care, Memorial has built up an extraordinary collection of archives.

In 2021, as the noose tightened and the phony condemnation of an orderly justice unleashed against the organization was announced, Memorial became a network with branches in Germany, Kazakhstan, Italy, France, in Ukraine.

On December 28, the organization was dissolved by the Russian Supreme Court. In other words, forcibly closed by the Putin regime, which could no longer bear this critical gaze on the heavy Russian and Soviet history – a history which it seeks to glorify.

And then there is Belarusian opponent Ales Bialiatski…

A tireless activist for rights and freedoms since his twenties, a repeated political prisoner, he is today awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while he is in prison. Like, before him, the journalist Carl von Ossietzky in 1935 and the writer and dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010, imprisoned in their time by the Nazi and Chinese Communist dictatorships. Both died in captivity, without ever having been able to collect their reward.

En prison since July 2021, Ales Bialiatski is the fourth personality in history to be crowned with the Nobel Peace Prize in detention.

Bialiatski had founded, in 1996, the Center Viasna [Spring], behind which loomed the resistance of a civil society violently repressed by a regime whose brutality is unknown abroad.

In the summer and fall of 2020, every Sunday, huge crowds demonstrated in the streets of Minsk to protest against the regime's electoral fraud in the August 9 elections. In the repression that followed, Bialiatski and his group Viasna were on the front line. Man always pays with his freedom for his tireless activism.

The Nobel committee today decorates, in Belarus, a true hero of rights and freedoms in a country which is undoubtedly the last real satellite state of Russia.

Not surprisingly, these choices are applauded in the West and treated with contempt by the regimes of Moscow and Minsk [where the unspeakable politicization of the Nobel Prizes is denounced].

But there is another place where these announcements have not been unanimous. This is Ukraine, the epicenter of all these events.

A number of Ukrainians indeed find it shocking – despite the undeniable merits of Bialiatski and the Memorial organization – to have to, in the midst of a war of invasion, share the prize with two countries whose leaders are enemies, massacres, criminals. With the highlighted theme of peaceful coexistence, which according to them is premature to say the least, while the time is still for resistance and reconquest.

Mikhaïlo Podoliak, a close adviser to President Zelensky [who was himself a now disappointed favorite in the race for the 2022 Nobel Prize], was scathingly ironic. “The Nobel Committee clearly has an interesting understanding of the word 'peace' if the Nobel Prize is won jointly by representatives of two countries who attacked a third,” he said. Russian and Belarusian organizations could not organize resistance to this war. “

A point of view that we can understand, while Russian bombs continue to fall on residential areas in Ukraine and we seem, by this joint appointment, to link the Ukrainians have a post-Soviet destiny… from which, on the contrary, they want to detach themselves at all costs.

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