NEWS Jailed Nobel laureate’s wife says Russia wants to turn Ukraine into ‘dependant’ like Belarus

Jailed Nobel laureate's wife says Russia wants to turn Ukraine into 'dependant' like Belarus

by Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) – The wife of imprisoned Belarusian Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Byalyatski said on Saturday that Russia wanted to turn Ukraine into a country like Belarus. That kind of “dependent dictatorship”.

Byalyatski, Russian human rights group Memorial and Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties were awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize in October, just as war erupted in Ukraine after Russia invaded its neighbor.

Natallia Pinchuk, who accepted the award on behalf of her husband at Oslo City Hall, said Byalyatski dedicated the award to “the millions of Belarusian citizens who have stood up in the streets and online to defend their civil rights”.

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

Pinchuk said at a news conference on Friday that he had seen her once behind glass walls in a prison since he was named a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

“I know exactly what kind of Ukraine is suitable for Russia and Putin — a dependent dictatorship. Just like Belarus today, the voices of the oppressed people are ignored and ignored,” Pinchuk quoted her husband as saying on Saturday.

Belarusian security police detained Byalyatski, 60, and others last July in a crackdown on opponents of the country’s president, Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Authorities have moved to shut down unofficial media and human rights groups after massive protests last August against what the opposition said was a rigged presidential election.

Byalyatski is the fourth person to win the Nobel Peace Prize while in custody, following Germany’s Carl von Ossietzky in 1935, China’s Liu Xiaobo in 2010 and Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, who was placed under house arrest in 1991.

The head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said at Saturday’s awards ceremony that the committee “cared for all prisoners of conscience in Belarus”.

“Most particularly, we were reminded of Ales Byalyatski’s dark and isolated cell in Minsk,” Berit Reiss-Andersen told the audience, which included King Harald and Queen Sonia.

“You are not alone. We stand with you.”

The UN human rights chief said in March that nearly 1,100 activists, opposition members and journalists had been detained in Belarus on “politically motivated charges” and called for their release.

Belarus’s mission to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva dismissed the report, with its diplomat Andrey Taranda telling the forum that “it is full of allegations and false accusations”.

Belarus and Russia are formally part of a “confederation of states” with close economic and military ties. Lukashenko’s reliance on Moscow has deepened after Russia helped him quell protests following the contentious 2020 election.

Beginning on February 24, Russia used Belarus as a staging post for its failed push towards Kiev. Belarus says it will not join the war against Ukraine. Russia said on Thursday its troops were taking part in tactical exercises in Belarus amid concerns Moscow was pressing its allies to get more involved in the war.

(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche, Editing by Frances Kerry)

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