Representatives of Ukraine have received the European Parliament’s 2022 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on behalf of "the brave people of Ukraine" amid their battle to repel invading Russian forces.
The annual prize, named after the Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, was established in 1988 by the European Parliament to honor individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola opened the ceremony in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday, citing a Sakharov quotation in which he said, "A country which does not respect the rights of its own citizens will not respect the rights of its neighbors."
"This year, we meet to honor our 2022 Sakharov Prize laureates — the brave people of Ukraine represented by their president, elected leaders and civil society who have already fought hard and sacrificed so much for their freedom and our values," she said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the ceremony via a video link, saying that "Russia's terrorist war aims to deprive Europe of Ukraine and freedom," adding that Ukraine is fighting against Russia's invasion to prevent similar attacks against Ukraine and Europe in future.
"After Ukraine and all Europeans win, there will be no attempts to again apply a genocidal policy against people both in Ukraine and throughout Europe. We must give, and we will give, a new security architecture for global freedom and international law and order. I believe this is part of our moral duty," Zelenskyy said, expressing gratitude to the members of the European Parliament for the award and support.
He also called for Europe to help set up a tribunal to ensure justice is served against Russian officials for their "crime of aggression."
Several Ukrainian nationals represented their country at the ceremony, including a veteran volunteer Yulia "Taira" Payevska; the Mayor of the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov; and human rights defender Oleksandra Matviychuk; and others.
The award comes with a prize of $53,240, which will be given to representatives of Ukraine's civil society.
The 2021 prize was awarded to jailed Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny for his efforts to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin's grip on power. Navalny is currently in prison on charges he says are politically motivated.
Some information for this report was provided by Reuters