Russian Nobel Medal: $100 million for Ukrainian children

Russian Nobel Medal: $100 million for Ukrainian children

The Russian editor of the independent investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta Dmitry Muratov auctioned off his Nobel Peace Prize medal for $103.5 million on Monday, to benefit children displaced by the conflict in Ukraine.

Mr Muratov had won the prestigious award in 2021, alongside Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, with the committee honoring them “for their efforts to preserve freedom of expression”. He had dedicated it to his newspaper Novaia Gazeta and its collaborators “who died defending people’s right to freedom of expression”.

The sale, which was taking place in New York, was very animated, punctuated by many applauses and stimulated by the bidders who encouraged each other to drive the sale upwards. Mr. Muratov recorded videos of the auction screen and the atmosphere in the room.

The proceeds from the sale, won over the phone by an unnamed bidder, will be donated to Unicef’s program for Ukrainian children displaced by war, according to Heritage Auctions, which is in charge of the sale.

When the final offer fell, increased by tens of millions of dollars over the previous one, the room was taken aback, including Mr. Muratov himself.

His choice of Unicef ​​as the beneficiary of the funds was motivated by the concern “essential for us that this organization does not belong to any government”, but can “work above”, without “borders”.

– “Be heard” –

Dmitry Muratov was one of the founders of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union and has directed its publication almost continuously since.

Known in particular for its investigations into corruption and human rights abuses in Chechnya, the tri-weekly became this year the last major newspaper to criticize President Vladimir Putin and his tactics inside and outside the country.

Novaya Gazeta announced at the end of March that it would suspend its online and print publications in Russia until the end of the intervention in Ukraine, in the midst of the Kremlin’s hardening against dissonant voices.

“There is no other solution. For us, and, I know, for you, this is a terrible and painful decision. But we must protect each other,” Ms. Muratov in a letter to the readers of the newspaper.

A screen shows the bidding for Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov’s 2021 Nobel Peace Prize medal, in New York on June 20, 2022 (AFP – Kena Betancur)

According to him, his editors had continued their work for 34 days “under the conditions of military censorship”, since the launch of the Russian offensive.

The newspaper has already paid a high price for its commitment: six of its journalists or contributors have been killed since the 1990s, including the famous journalist Anna Politkovskaya, known for her criticism of the Kremlin’s bloody war in Chechnya and murdered on October 7 2006.

The sponsors of this crime have never been identified.

Shaken by this murder, Mr. Muratov had considered closing the newspaper, which seemed to him “dangerous for people’s lives”, he confided in March 2021 to AFP, but had decided to continue in the face of the determination of its editorial staff. .

On Monday, he praised the perseverance of journalists, who constitute an important obstacle for governments and a means of preventing war.

Dmitry Muratov, Russian editor of the independent investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta, at the auction of his Nobel Peace Prize medal to benefit Ukrainian children displaced by war, in New York, June 20, 2022 ( GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP - Michael M. Santiago)
Dmitry Muratov, Russian editor of the independent investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta, at the auction of his Nobel Peace Prize medal to benefit Ukrainian children displaced by war, in New York, June 20, 2022 ( GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP – Michael M. Santiago)

“No matter how many times each of us wants to give notice and resign, we have to stay in our jobs,” he told AFP.

In a video posted by Heritage Auctions, the journalist says that winning the Nobel Prize “gives you an opportunity to be heard”.

“The most important message today is that people understand that a conflict is happening and that we must help the people who are suffering the most,” he added, pointing in particular to “children in refugee families.

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