Europe praises, Belarus scorns Nobel for rights defenders – Times of India

BERLIN: Officials in Europe praised the awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to activists standing up for human rights and democracy in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine while authorities in Belarus scorned the move.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year has pushed Moscow’s relationship with its Western neighbors to a new low. Even before that, ties had been fraught over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s backing for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, his support for authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and his repression of political opponents such as dissident Alexei Navalny at home.
“I hope the Russian authorities read the justification for the peace prize and take it to heart,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said after the Nobel Committee awarded the 2022 prize to imprisoned Belarus rights activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian rights group Memorial and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, which is focusing on documenting war crimes.
“It sends a signal that keeping civil society down is protecting one’s own power. It is seen from the outside and it is criticized,” he said.
French President Emmanuel Macron was among the world leaders who quickly hailed the laureates, tweeting that their prize “pays homage to unwavering defenders of human rights in Europe.”
“Artisans of peace, they know they can count on France’s support,” the French leader said.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg congratulated the winners, tweeting that “the right to speak truth to power is fundamental to free and open societies.”
Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said the award needs to be seen against the backdrop of the conflict in Ukraine.
“There is war in Europe. Your work for peace and human rights is therefore more important than ever before,” he said to the winners. “Thank you for that.”
In Paris, exiled Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told The Associated Press that the award was “recognition of all the people who are sacrificing their freedom and lives for the sake of (Belarus).”
Over the last two years, the government of Belarus has waged a violent crackdown on journalists and protesters who say that the 2020 presidential election there was rigged, beating thousands, detaining tens of thousands, charging rights defenders with cases that the opposition calls politically motivated. Many have fled the country for their own safety.
“Physically, you know, this prize will not influence their situation but I am sure it (will) influence the moods and intentions of other countries to help those people who are behind the bars,” Tsikhanouskaya said.
Belarus’ Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, denounced the Nobel committee’s decision to award the prize to Bialiatski as “politicized.”
Ministry spokesman Anatoly Glaz said “in recent years, a number of important decisions — and we’re talking about the peace prize — of the Nobel committee have been so politicized, that, I’m sorry, Alfred Nobel got tired of turning in his grave.”
“But it’s their kitchen and their consciousness, we don’t want to interfere and comment. We just lost all interest in it at some point,” Glaz said.

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