Nobel Foundation reverses decision to invite Russia to prize ceremony following backlash

By Eve Brennan, Sophie Tanno, Niamh Kennedy and Olga Voitovych, CNN

CNN  —  The Nobel Foundation has U-turned on a controversial decision to invite the ambassadors of Russia, Belarus and Iran to the Nobel Prize award ceremony after facing widespread criticism.

The foundation announced in a press release Saturday that ambassadors from the three countries would not be invited, after initially saying that it wanted to involve even those who did not share the values of the Nobel Prize.

Ukraine had condemned the decision to invite the Russian and Belarusian ambassadors, who had been left out of Stockholm’s Nobel Prize awards ceremony last year because of the war in Ukraine. A Swedish member of the European Parliament called the decision “extremely inappropriate.”

“The decision by the Nobel Foundation to invite all ambassadors to the Nobel Prize award ceremony, in accordance with previous practice, has provoked strong reactions,” the foundation said in its statement Saturday, adding that the basis for the decision is the belief that “it is important and right to reach out as widely as possible with the values and messages that the Nobel Prize stands for.”

“For example, through last year’s clear political message with the peace prize awarded to human rights fighters from Russia and Belarus as well as to Ukrainians who work with documenting Russian war crimes,” it said.

“We recognize the strong reactions in Sweden, which completely overshadowed this message. We, therefore, choose to repeat last year’s exception to regular practice – that is, to not invite the ambassadors of Russia, Belarus and Iran to the Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm,” the foundation said.

The move on Saturday was welcomed by the Swedish prime minister and Ukrainian officials.

“I welcome the new decision of the board of the Nobel Foundation regarding the Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm,” Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, while Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, called the reversal a “restoration of justice” in a post on Facebook.

The Nobel Banquet takes place annually in Stockholm on December 10, where five out of six Nobel Prizes are awarded. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway.

Russians and Belarusians have been excluded from countless events since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which has been heavily assisted by Minsk, in February 2022.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus have also been banned from competing in numerous sporting events, and diplomats are regularly excluded from summits.

Russia ‘trying to silence’ Nobel winner

In another development, Nobel committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen on Saturday accused Russia of “trying to silence” Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist Dmitry Muratov, after Russia added Muratov to its register of “foreign agents” on Friday.

Under a law expanded in December 2022, Russia requires all individuals or organizations receiving either funding or support from abroad to be classified as “foreign agents.”

“Mr. Dmitry Muratov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for his efforts to promote freedom of speech and freedom of information, and independent journalism. It is sad that Russian authorities are now trying to silence him,” said Reiss-Andersen, adding that the “accusations against him are politically motivated.”

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