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22 Oct, 2020 15:51

‘We are by your side’: European Parliament awards Belarusian opposition the 2020 Sakharov Prize

‘We are by your side’: European Parliament awards Belarusian opposition the 2020 Sakharov Prize

The European Parliament has awarded Belarus' opposition the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The annual award recognizes the work of individuals or organizations who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Named after the late Russian nuclear physicist-turned-disarmament activist Andrey Sakharov, the prize has been handed out every year since 1988. Former laureates include South African anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela, ex-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, and Pakistani women's rights activist Malala Yousafzai. 

On Thursday, President of the European Parliament David Sassoli announced that “the democratic opposition in Belarus” had been awarded the 2020 prize.

“They have stood and still stay strong in the face of a much stronger adversary,” Sassoli said. “But they have on their side something that brute force can never defeat - and this is the truth.” 

The Belarusian opposition leaders were named as a group of “brave women”: presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich, and political activists Maria Kolesnikova, Olga Kovalkova and Veronika Tsepkalo.

READ MORE: Belarus protests: Dozens detained by cops & rubber bullets fired during another large anti-opposition march in Minsk (VIDEOS)

The list also included five men: opposition video blogger and husband of presidential candidate Tikhanovskaya, Sergey Tikhanovsky, founder of the Belarusian human rights organization 'Viasna' Ales Bialiatski, Minsk Tractor Works strike committee representative Sergey Dylevsky, founder of the Telegram channel NEXTA Stepan Putsila, and presidential candidate in the 2010 election Nikolai Statkevich.

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The Belarusian opposition was nominated by the European Parliament's three most powerful political groups, the center-right European People's Party, the center-left S&D Progressive Alliance and the liberal Renew Europe group.

This is not the first year that Belarusians have won the famous prize. In 2004, the Belarusian Association of Journalists won for “aiming to ensure freedom of speech.” Two years later, in 2006, opposition politician Alexander Milinkevich won the award.

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