Nobel Peace Prize winners receive award in Oslo

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is being presented to Belarusian, Russian, and Ukrainian activists for promoting the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens.

Jailed activist Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian organisation Memorial, and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties group were announced as recipients in October.

Al Jazeera will be live at 16:00 GMT from Oslo, Norway, to speak to Natallia Pinchuk, Bialiatski’s wife, Jan Rachinsky from Memorial, and Oleksandra Matviichuk from the Center for Civil Liberties about the importance of civil society in a time of war, and the challenges and dangers activists face doing their job.

The prize, worth about $900,000, was handed out on Saturday on the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in 1895.

In his acceptance speech, Rachinsky blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “insane and criminal” war in Ukraine.

Under Putin, “resistance to Russia is called ‘fascism’” and has become “the ideological justification for the insane and criminal war of aggression against Ukraine”,  Rachinsky told the audience.

Matviichuk said her country could not achieve peace by “laying down its arms” against Russia. “This would not be peace, but occupation,” she said.

Pinchuk delivered a speech her husband’s behalf, saying Putin wanted to turn Ukraine into a “dependent dictatorship” like Belarus, “where the voice of the oppressed people is ignored and disregarded.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised the recipients for their “outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power”.

“Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy,” the committee said in its citation.

Ales Bialiatski

Prominent Belarusian human rights activist Bialiatski is the fourth laureate to win the Nobel Peace Prize while behind bars.

The founder of leading rights group Viasna had been at the forefront of attempts to document the abuses committed by the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, described in the West as Europe’s last dictator.

Bialiatski, 60, was jailed in July 2021 following massive street protests over a national vote that kept Lukashenko in power for a sixth term the previous year.

His organisation documented the use of torture against political prisoners by Belarusian authorities and provided support to jailed demonstrators and their families.

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