The wife of the Nobel laureate said in prison that Russia wants to turn Ukraine into a “vassal” like Belarus

By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) – The wife of Belarusian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Alice Bialiatsky said on Saturday that Russia wants to turn Ukraine into a “slave dictatorship” like Belarus, as she accepted the award on his behalf, speaking in his words.

Bialiatsky, the Russian rights group Memorial and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize in October, amid the war in Ukraine that followed Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.

Receiving the award on behalf of her husband at Oslo City Hall, Natalia Pinchuk said Bialiatsky dedicated the award to “the millions of Belarusian citizens who have stood up and taken action in the streets and on the Internet to defend their civil rights.”

“It highlights the tragic situation and the struggle for human rights in the country,” she said, adding that she was speaking in her husband’s words.

Pinchuk told a news conference on Friday that Pinchuk had met her husband once since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in prison behind a glass wall.

“I know exactly what kind of Ukraine suits Russia and Putin – a vassal dictatorship. Like Belarus today, where the voice of the oppressed people is ignored and ignored,” Pinchuk said Saturday, quoting her husband.

Belarusian security police arrested Bialiatsky, 60, and others in July last year in a crackdown on opponents of the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko.

The authorities moved to shut down non-state media and human rights groups after mass protests last August against a presidential election that the opposition said was rigged.

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Bialiatsky is the fourth person to win the Nobel Peace Prize while in detention, after Germany’s Carl von Ossitzky in 1935, China’s Liu Xiaobo in 2010, and Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest in 1991.

“The thoughts of the committee are with all prisoners of conscience in Belarus,” the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said during Saturday’s ceremony.

“In particular, we think of Alice Bialiatsky in his dark and secluded cell in Minsk,” Beret Reiss-Andersen told the audience, which included King Harald and Queen Sonja.

“You are not alone. We are with you.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in March that nearly 1,100 activists, dissidents and journalists were being held on “politically motivated charges” in Belarus and called for their release.

Belarus’s delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva rejected the report, with its diplomat Andrei Taranda telling the forum: “It is full of false allegations and accusations.”

Belarus and Russia are officially part of a “federal state” and are closely allied economically and militarily. Lukashenko’s dependence on Moscow deepened after Russia helped him quell protests that followed the disputed 2020 election.

Russia used Belarus as a springboard for its failed advance on Kiev, beginning on 24 February. Belarus has said it will not enter the war in Ukraine. Russia said Thursday that its forces are taking part in tactical maneuvers in Belarus, amid fears that Moscow is pressuring its ally to get more involved in the war.

(Reporting by Gwladys Foch Editing by Frances Kerry)

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