EU awards top human rights prize to people of Ukraine

The people of Ukraine and their representatives have been awarded the European Union’s top human rights prize for their resistance to Russia’s invasion and ongoing war.

The EU award, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, was created in 1988 to honour individuals or groups who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms. Mr Sakharov, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, died in 1989.

It is the second straight year that EU lawmakers have used the Sakharov Prize to send a message to the Kremlin. Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny won it last year.

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EU lawmakers praised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for his “bravery, endurance and devotion to his people” and highlighted the role of Ukraine’s state emergency services.

Among others, they also cited Yulia Pajevska, the founder of the medical evacuation unit Angels Of Taira, human rights activist Oleksandra Matviychuk, the Yellow Ribbon civil resistance movement and Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol.

Ukrainians have faced a rise in Russian attacks in recent weeks.

Since launching a counter-offensive in late August, Ukrainian forces have reclaimed broad swathes of the country, dealing a heavy blow to Russia.

“They are standing up for what they believe in. Fighting for our values. Protecting democracy, freedom and rule of law. Risking their lives for us,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola wrote on Twitter.

Support: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, shakes hands with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Kyiv

“No one is more deserving. Congratulations to the brave people of Ukraine!”

EU lawmakers said Ukrainians were not only defending their homes and the independence of their country but also the rule of law and European values “against a brutal regime that seeks to undermine our democracy, weaken and divide our Union”.

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