Russian journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov auctions off his Nobel medal for Ukrainian refugees, upset over the eradication of independent media in his country, where he says fewer people support the military campaign from Moscow.
Muratov is the longtime co-founder and editor of Novaya Gazeta, a Kremlin-critical newspaper that was itself established in 1993 with money from former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s Nobel Peace Prize.
For years he defied tighter restrictions on dissident media, but in March he finally suspended his online and print activities after he became a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison for reporting anything on the conflict that deviated from the government line.
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“My country invaded another state, Ukraine. There are now 15.5 million refugees. We thought long and hard about what we could do and thought that everyone should give something dear to them, important for him,” Muratov told Reuters in a statement. interview.
Selling his gold medal at auction would mean he somehow shared the plight of refugees who had lost their memories and “their past”, he said.
“Now they want to take their future away from them, but we have to make sure their future is preserved. The most important thing we want to say and show is that human solidarity is needed.”
Muratov’s medal is being sold by Heritage Auctions on June 20, World Refugee Day, with the support of the awards committee.
He had called the award to Muratov and Maria Ressa, a journalist from the Philippines, an endorsement of the right to free speech that was in jeopardy around the world.
Muratov dedicated his award to six Novaya Gazeta journalists murdered for their work, including some of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics.
He lamented the lack of free media and the severity of state repression against protests.
“The absence of real freedom of expression, of a real exchange of opinions, of real freedom of expression leads to the fact that people have no choice. They just have to believe what state propagandists tell them,” he said.
“There is no free media. Gatherings are indeed prohibited, including in the regions. For any declaration, an administrative or criminal procedure is initiated.
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“Independent journalism is impossible in modern Russia. Content delivery is possible, for example, through the YouTube platform. It is possible to provide content alternative to the state view through VPN services. But It’s getting harder and harder every day.”
Nonetheless, he questioned research indicating that most Russians support the invasion.
“When they call you on the phone…and ask: ‘Do you support President Putin’s actions?’ or “Do you support the action of the Russian army?” or “Do you support the military operation in Ukraine? – how does the person react, do you think?”
Muratov believes that in reality support for the war, often represented by the display of a “Z” in the Latin alphabet, is declining.
“If you walk through the streets of Moscow now, you will see that there are hardly any ‘Z’s left in the streets.”
Moscow says it sent troops to Ukraine to defuse a military threat and protect Russian speakers from persecution, claims that Kyiv and its Western allies say are a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war of acquisition.
“I see what people say to me on the street,” Muratov said. “I see what our readers are writing, and I understand that it is impossible to say that Russia supports the invasion of Ukraine with one voice.”
He said that even the Kremlin recognized that 25-30% of the population did not support the operation.
But Muratov said those who thought change could come to Russia following a split in the elite were wrong.
“The powers that be have never been so united, never so monolithic. The people in power have nowhere to go: neither Europe nor America, they are not allowed anywhere else. They are here They are here like the crew of a submarine with no escape. And of course, they are united around the president.
He also questioned suggestions that Russians could turn on the authorities if their standard of living suffered from Western sanctions, saying they were more likely to evoke the ‘can do’ spirit of those who have survived the hardships of World War II.
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“Russia has gotten to the point where Russian President Putin will stay in power for as long as he sees fit – as he sees it, it’s for the good of Russia. If he’s going to be president or some kind of monarch, I don’t know. But the tendency towards absolutism is absolutely evident.”
When asked how much he expected the medal to fetch, Muratov said he had heard predictions of $2 million or more, but had no idea:
“The final will be as unexpected for me as for you.”
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