On December 14, 2022, the European Parliament held a ceremony to award the Sakharov Prize for upholding freedom of thought and the rule of law. The Sakharov Prize is the main human rights award of the European Union.
A month ago, MEPs awarded it to the brave people of Ukraine represented by the President, elected leaders and civil society. At the beginning of the ceremony, the head of the European Parliament, Roberta Metzola, recalled the laureates of previous years. Later, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky took the floor. He spoke about the struggle of Ukrainians against the Russian invaders. In addition, the European Parliament observed a moment of silence for Ukrainians killed in the war against Ukraine.
The Ukrainian delegation that arrived in Strasbourg for the award ceremony included: the mayor of the temporarily occupied city of Melitopol, a “Taira” paramedic, representatives of the State Emergency Service and the public resistance movement in the temporarily occupied regions of Ukraine. Before the award presentation, each of the delegation’s representatives spoke about their path in the struggle for the rights of our people: those who remain in captivity and in the temporarily occupied territories. Yuliya Paevska, commander of the volunteer medical evacuation unit "Angels of Taira": "..a lot of my compatriots, military civilians are being held captive without a trial, without the law, under torture, with insufficient food, without medical assistance, no rules cannot be tolerated. We want the invader to simply leave our lands, take his army, his soldiers, and pay reparations so that we can restore everything that was destroyed."
The mayor of the temporarily occupied city of Melitopol, who was abducted by the Russian special services at the beginning of the invasion, made public numerous facts of people's rights violations in the temporarily occupied territories, in particular, he announced the deportation of schoolchildren from the city of Melitopol, who are trying to continue their studies under the Ukrainian educational program: "..now our team is restoring education system and all our children in the temporarily occupied territories can study in Ukrainian schools. However, if the Russians find out that some of our children are studying in a Ukrainian school, they will deport them from Melitopol within a few hours."
The prize fund of the Sakharov Prize is 50,000 euros. For 34 years of its existence, the award was given to world-renowned people and organizations who were not afraid to openly oppose the tyrannical regime. Among them are Oleksiy Navalnyi and Oleg Sentsov. Usually, the prize is awarded personally, but this year the MEPs decided to honor the entire Ukrainian nation with the award.
A week ago, the Nobel Committee awarded the 2022 peace prize to the laureates for "representation of civil society in their countries". The award was received by Ukrainian human rights defender, head of the human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties Oleksandra Matviychuk. Oleksandra assured that all prestigious awards that Ukrainians currently receive can become tools that have a chance to draw even more attention of the international community to numerous tragedies in Ukraine:
"..all these awards, all these honors are not personal. These are opportunities for Ukraine. So that people stop dying at the front-line, so that people stop dying in the rear, so that people stop dying in the temporarily occupied regions. Putin will stop when he is stopped. These awards highlight certain aspects of the problem, work and needs of Ukrainians to help overcome them."
The awarding of the Sakharov Prize took place within the framework of the session of the European Parliament, which will last until the end of the week. The next step for MEPs will be to vote for the recognition of the Holodomor in Ukraine as genocide.