Reactions have poured in after human rights advocates Ales Bialiatski of Belarus, Russia’s Memorial group, and Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.
The highly symbolic choice of laureates from three nations at the center of the Ukrainian war was mostly greeted with praise, but Belarus and a senior Ukrainian presidential aide criticized the choice of winners.
EU chief Ursula von der Leyen saluted the “outstanding courage” of the Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian rights activists.
“The Nobel Prize committee has recognized the outstanding courage of the women and men standing against autocracy. They show the true power of civil society in the fight for democracy,” von der Leyen said on Twitter.
The @NobelPrize The committee has recognized the outstanding courage of the women and men standing against autocracy.⁰
They show the true power of civil society in the fight for democracy.
Tell their stories.
Share their engagement.
Help make the world a freer place. pic.twitter.com/45AFJSx1J7
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) October 7, 2022
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres congratulated the winners and said civil society groups were “the oxygen of democracy, and catalysts for peace, social progress and economic growth”.
“They help keep governments accountable and carry the voices of the vulnerable into the halls of power,” he added, calling on the world to support “the brave defenders of universal values of peace, hope and dignity for all” in the face of increasing attacks.
President Emmanuel Macron hailed the Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian winners as “unswerving defenders of human rights in Europe”.
“As peacemakers, they can count on France’s support,” he posted on Twitter.
The federal government in Berlin highlighted the three groups’ “exceptional” commitment to democratic development, human rights and civil liberties.
“They have opposed oppression and moves against peaceful forces in civil society such as we are living through in Russia and Belarus, in particular.”
A senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy voiced irritation that the prize was shared with organizations from countries allied against Ukraine: Russia and Belarus.
The “Nobel Committee has an interesting understanding of the word ‘peace’ if representatives of two countries that attacked a third one receive the Nobel Prize together,” presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said on Twitter.
The Nobel Committee has an interesting understanding of the word “peace” if representatives of two countries that attacked a third one receive @NobelPrize together. Neither Russian nor Belarusian organizations were able to organize resistance to the war. This year’s Nobel is “awesome”.
— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) October 7, 2022
Belarus denounced the Nobel Committee for handing the prestigious peace prize to imprisoned activist Ales Bialiatski, saying its founder Alfred Nobel was “turning in his grave”.
“In recent years, a number of fundamental decisions of the Nobel Committee are so politicized that, excuse me, Alfred Nobel is tormented and turning in his grave,” foreign ministry spokesman Anatoly Glaz said on Twitter.
Exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya paid full tribute to Ales Bialiatski, noting he celebrated his 60th birthday in prison on September 25 as he did his 50th.
“His story is the story of our country – a decades-long struggle for freedom. I am incredibly proud that he received the Nobel Peace Prize!” she wrote on Twitter.
You may not know, but Ales celebrated his 60th birthday in prison recently, on September 25. He also celebrated his 50th birthday in prison. His story is the story of our country – a decades-long struggle for freedom. I am incredibly proud that he received the Nobel Peace Prize! pic.twitter.com/rDGwvQw1b2
— Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) October 7, 2022
Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, said, “The Nobel Committee is sending an important message to the world – that it must support human rights defenders that have shown an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human rights abuses and the abuse of power in their countries.
“This message is sent at a critical moment when ongoing Russian aggression has led to a human rights crisis of incredible proportions in Ukraine, and the crackdown on any form of dissent in Russia and Belarus,” Callamard said.
“Amnesty International stands in solidarity with Ales Bialiatski, Memorial and the Center for Civil Liberties. All three are an inspiration and an example of courage and dedication for all those who carry out human rights work in Eastern Europe.”