People of Ukraine handed EU’s top human rights prize

STRASBOURG, France (AP) — The people of Ukraine and their representatives were handed the European Union’s top human rights prize Wednesday for their resistance to Russia’s invasion and defiance during the ongoing war.

The 27-nation bloc awarded the “brave people of Ukraine” the prize in October. Yulia Pajevska, founder of the medical evacuation unit Angels of Taira, human rights activist Oleksandra Matviichuk and Ivan Fedorov, mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol, were on hand to receive it during a solemn ceremony in Strasbourg, France.

“We have witnessed the inspiring resistance of ordinary citizens making the ultimate sacrifice to delay a column of tanks, senior citizens standing up to face down Russian troops with nothing but pride as their weapons. Brave women forced to give birth in underground metro stations,” said European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

“To these people, the message from Europe has been clear. We stand with Ukraine. We will not look away,” she said.

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

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

The defiance of Ukrainians during the nearly 10-month-old war has persisted despite an uptick in attacks in recent weeks. Ukrainian forces have reclaimed broad swaths of the country, dealing a blow to Russia’s military prestige, since launching a counteroffensive in late August.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine war: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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