Ukraine was officially presented with the Sakharov Prize on Wednesday following a decision by the European Parliament’s Conference of Presidents.
This year’s prize-winner was in October announced by European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, with the prize itself officially given to the people of Ukraine later today.
Awarding the prize,Parliament President Roberta Metsola spoke of the courage and sacrifices of the Ukrainian people: “The message from Europe has been clear: We stand with Ukraine. We will not look away. The Ukrainian people are not just fighting a war of independence but fighting a war of values. The values which underpin our life in the European Union and that we have long had the luxury of taking for granted each and every day.”
After asking for a minute of silence in the name of all the Ukrainian men, women, children, military and civilians who have been killed in the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: “We must act now, not waiting for the war to end, to bring to justice all those who unleashed it and to prevent any repetition of aggression. This will be the most effective protection of freedom, human rights, the rule of law and other common values, which are embodied in particular by this award by the European Parliament.”
Speaking via video link, Zelenskyy called for support for an international tribunal to bring to justice for the crimes committed by Russia.
Present at the ceremony were:
- Oleksandra Matviychuk – human rights lawyer, chair of the Center for Civil Liberties organisation, which was one of the winners of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize
- Yulia Pajevska – founder of the evacuation medical unit Angels of Taira
- Ivan Federov – the mayor of Melitopol
- Olekssandr Chekryhin and Stanislav Kulykivskyi – representing the State Emergency Services
- Yaroslav Bozhko – of the Yellow Ribbon Civil Resistance Movement.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and the prize money is 50 000 euros.
Last year, Parliament awarded the prize to Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.