Annual prize awarded to Ukraine’s citizens to honour their fight against Russia’s invasion
The European parliament has awarded the people of Ukraine its annual Sakharov prize for freedom of thought to honour their fight against Russia’s invasion.
“They are standing up for what they believe in. Fighting for our values. Protecting democracy, freedom and rule of law. Risking their lives for us,” the European parliament president, Roberta Metsola, said when she announced the winner.
“There is no one more deserving of this prize,” she said.
The award comes with prize money of €50,000 (£43,560), which will be distributed to representatives of Ukrainian civil society.
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, expressed gratitude for the EU’s support, writing on Twitter that “Ukrainians prove dedication to the values of freedom, democracy every day on the battlefield”.
When they nominated Ukraine for the prize, MEPs praised Zelenskiy for his “bravery, endurance and devotion to his people” and highlighted the roles of Ukraine’s state emergency services.
Among others, they also cited Yuliia Paievska, the founder of the medical evacuation unit Angels of Taira, human rights activist Oleksandra Matviichuk, the Yellow Ribbon civil resistance movement and Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol.
The prize, named after the late Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded annually since 1988 to individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“At this time, Ukraine is the focus of global attention. Tetiana Trofymchuk, a musician 26 years old, told Reuters in Kyiv that Ukraine deserves this award because it serves as an example of what a democratic society should be.
“I think [the prize] sounds and seems rather flimsy, but it’s nice of them to give it to us. It is yet another justification for discussing Ukraine and its accomplishments. Wonderful,” exclaimed Svitlana, a 36-year-old businesswoman who wished to remain anonymous.
The Sakharov Prize was used by EU legislators to address the Kremlin for the second time in as many years with this award. Alexei Navalny, the leader of the imprisoned Russian opposition, took it last year.
Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for education, Nelson Mandela, and the democratic opposition of Belarus are some of the other past winners.