The Russian human rights defence organisation Memorial and its three leaders have received the European Parliament’s 2009 Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, named after the late physicist-turned-dissident.
Oleg Orlov, Sergei Kovalev and Lyudmila Alexeyeva are among the rare public critics in Russia of the current Moscow regime’s performance on human rights — in their country and its backyard.
The past year has taken a heavy toll. One of Memorial’s founders paid tribute in Strasbourg to soldiers of conscience.
Sergei Kovalev said: “This prize is theirs by right. The first is Natalia Estemirova, human rights defender and fellow member of Memorial, shot in Chechnya. Among others I should also mention Stanislav Markelov, a lawyer; Anna Politkovskaya and Anastasia Baburova, journalists, killed in Moscow; Nikolai Girenko, an ethnologist, shot in St-Petersburg; Farid Babaev, killed in Dagestan and many others. Sadly this list could go on. Please rise to honor the memory of these people.”