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Ukrainian Nobel Prize winner says Putin must face tribunal

Oleksandra Matviychuk, human rights activist and chair of the Centre for Civil Liberties (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/AP/PA)
Oleksandra Matviychuk, human rights activist and chair of the Centre for Civil Liberties (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/AP/PA)

A representative of one of the organisations sharing this year’s Nobel Peace Prize has said Russian President Vladimir Putin should face an international tribunal for the fighting in Ukraine.

Oleksandra Matviychuk of Ukraine’s Centre for Civil Liberties told a news conference in Oslo, Norway, that such a tribunal should be established to hold Mr Putin, as well as Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko “and other war criminals”, accountable.

In October, the Ukrainian group was named a co-winner of the 2022 peace price along with Russian human rights group Memorial and Ales Bialiatski, head of the Belarusian rights group Viasna.

Norway Nobel Peace Prize
Representatives of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, from left, Oleksandra Matviichuk, head of the Centre for Civil Liberties, Jan Rachinsky, chairman of the International Memorial Board and Natallia Pinchuk, the wife of Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatski (Markus Schreiber/AP/PA)

Mr Bialiatski is in jail in Belarus and was unable to travel to receive the prize, which is due to be formally presented on Saturday.

Ms Matviychuk called the conflict in Ukraine “genocidal” and said that “if Ukraine stops resistance, there will be no more us”.

She also dismissed suggestions of negotiations to end the conflict. Russia “sees any attempt at dialogue as a sign of weakness”, she said.

The triple peace prize was seen as a strong rebuke to Mr Putin, not only for Russia’s actions in Ukraine but for the Kremlin’s crackdown on domestic opposition and its close ties with the authoritarian Mr Lukashenko, who brutally suppressed protests in 2020 that erupted after a presidential election widely regarded as manipulated.

Russia’s Supreme Court shut down Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and most prominent human rights organisations, in December 2021.

Memorial was acclaimed for its studies of political repression in the Soviet Union. The Russian government declared the organisation as a “foreign agent” in 2016 — a label that implies additional government scrutiny and carries strong pejorative connotations that can discredit the targeted organisation.

Yan Rachinsky of Memorial said during the Oslo news conference that he was not worried about his own security amid the crackdown, but added that “the situation of human rights defenders, unfortunately, is very bad today in Russia”.

“Many have been imprisoned for a long time. Some are being persecuted today. And this is unlikely to improve quickly. But, nevertheless, there are people who continue this work and will continue,” he said.

Mr Bialiatski was not allowed to send a speech for the awards ceremony. But his wife, Natallia Pinchuk, planned to deliver an address on his behalf.

At the news conference, Ms Pinchuk lamented that other world events have taken away some of the attention that was previously focused on Belarus’s repressions.

“Let’s not forget … about Belarus, where a different kind of war is taking place — a war, as it were, hidden and invisible to many, the population is so stifled and crushed that it almost does not have its own voice,” she said.