Russian auctions Nobel Peace Prize medal – and raises £84m for Ukrainian refugees

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A Russian journalist awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, has sold his medal for £84 million – and donated the money to Ukrainian refugee children.

Dmitry Muratov, editor of the Russian Novaya Gazeta newspaper fiercely critical of the Kremlin, was jointly awarded the prize last year with fellow journalist Maria Ressa of the Philippines.

But on Monday – on World Refugee Day – his medal went up for auction and fetched the staggering amount.

Previously, the most ever paid for a Nobel Prize medal was $4.76 million (£3.83m) in 2014, when James Watson, whose co-discovery of the structure of DNA earned him a Nobel Prize in 1962, sold his.

The full purchase price of the medal will benefit UNICEF‘s humanitarian response for Ukraine’s displaced children,
Heritage Auctions, which conducted the auction, said in a statement.

Mr Muratov, who was given the award in October 2021, helped found Novaya Gazeta and was the publication’s editor-in-chief when it shut down in March amid the Kremlin’s clampdown on journalists and public dissent in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It was Mr Muratov’s idea to auction off his prize, having already announced he was donating the accompanying £407,000 cash award to charity.

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The idea of the donation, he said, “is to give the children refugees a chance for a future”.

Dmitry Muratov's 23-carat gold medal of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Pic AP
Image:
The 23-carat gold medal Pic AP

Melted down, the 175 grams of 23-carat gold contained in Mr Muratov’s medal would be worth about £8,000.

He said he hoped the sale would “become a beginning of a flash mob, as an example to follow so people auction their valuable possessions to help Ukrainians”.

And he added it was important international sanctions levied against Russia do not prevent humanitarian aid, such as medicine for rare diseases and bone marrow transplants, from reaching those in need.

A child looks out from a window of a bus for refugees fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Lviv, Ukraine, March 13, 2022. REUTERS/Pavlo Palamarchuk
Image:
The UN estimates around 8 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine – many of them children

Mr Muratov and Maria Ressa, who each received their own medals, were honoured for their battles to preserve free speech in their respective countries, despite coming under attack by harassment, their governments and even death threats.

Read more:
Shock figures show more than 8 million people displaced by conflict
All live updates and developments in the Ukraine war

Mr Muratov has been highly critical of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the war launched in February that has caused nearly five million Ukrainians to flee to other countries for safety, creating the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War.

Independent journalists in Russia have come under scrutiny by the Kremlin, if not outright targets of the government.

Since Putin came into power more than two decades ago, nearly two dozen journalists have been killed, including at least four who had worked for Mr Muratov’s newspaper.

In April, Mr Muratov said he was attacked with red paint while aboard a Russian train.

Since its inception in 1901, there have been nearly 1,000 recipients of the Nobel Prizes honouring achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and the advancement of peace.

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