Ukrainian people receive Sakharov freedom prize

The prize has been awarded annually since 1988 to individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Representatives of Ukrainian civil society pose with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola after receiving the Sakharov Prize in the name of the people of Ukraine and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France December 14, 2022. (photo credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)
Representatives of Ukrainian civil society pose with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola after receiving the Sakharov Prize in the name of the people of Ukraine and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France December 14, 2022.
(photo credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)

The people of Ukraine received the European Parliament's annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on Wednesday to honor their fight against Russia's invasion.

"There is no one more deserving of this prize," said European Parliament president Roberta Metsola at an event with representatives of Ukrainian society who received the prize on behalf of the country's people.

"For all those Ukrainians who have lost relatives and friends. For all those Ukrainians who stand up and fight for what they believe in."

A prize for defending freedoms

The prize, named after the late Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded annually since 1988 to individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Last year the award was given to jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny for his efforts to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin's grip on power. The parliament announced this year's winners in October.

"There is no one more deserving of this prize."

European Parliament president Roberta Metsola

The people of Ukraine were represented by the founder of a volunteer ambulance corps called Taira's Angels Yulia Pajevska, human rights lawyer Oleksandra Matviychuk and the exiled mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov.

"It is very symbolic that this year the brave people of Ukraine receive the Sakharov price because people have a much greater impact than they can imagine," Matviychuk said, who together with Fedorov, asked for more weapons for Ukrainians.

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on screen as EU Parliament awards Sakharov prize to the Ukrainian people at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France December 14, 2022. (credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on screen as EU Parliament awards Sakharov prize to the Ukrainian people at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France December 14, 2022. (credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)

"We need several things. We need weapons, sanctions and justice and then recovery."

The award includes prize money of 50,000 euro ($53,240), which will be distributed to representatives of Ukrainian civil society.

Russia, which calls the war in Ukraine a special military operation, occupies areas in the south and the east of the country despite military setbacks and recently claimed four regions to be part of its territory.