Russian journalist's Nobel medal sells for $144m, destined for Ukraine aid

Dmitry Muratov with his 2021 Nobel Peace Prize medal prior to its auction by Heritage Auctions in New York City, on June 20, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Dmitry Muratov, the Russian editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, on Monday (June 20) auctioned off his Nobel Peace Prize gold medal for a whopping US$103.5 million (S$144 million) to benefit children displaced by the war in Ukraine.

All of the proceeds from the sale of the medal - which was snapped up by an as yet unidentified phone bidder - will go to Unicef's Humanitarian Response for Ukrainian Children Displaced by War, according to Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale.

Mr Muratov won the prize in 2021 alongside journalist Maria Ressa of the Philippines, with the committee honouring them "for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression."

His paper in March suspended operations in Russia, after Moscow adopted legislation providing for tough jail terms against anyone criticising the Kremlin's bloody military campaign in Ukraine.

Mr Muratov was among a group of journalists who founded Novaya Gazeta in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union. This year it became the only major newspaper left voicing criticism of President Vladimir Putin and his tactics inside and outside the country.

The announcement that it was suspending operations came more than a month into Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Heritage Auctions handled the sale of Mr Muratov's Nobel Medal, which went on the block both online and in person, with the final sale in Manhattan.

In April Mr Muratov was assaulted on a train when a person threw oil-based paint mixed with acetone on him, causing his eyes to burn.

Since 2000, six of Novaya Gazeta's journalists and collaborators have been killed in connection with their work, including investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya.

Muratov has dedicated his Nobel Prize to their memory.

"This newspaper is dangerous for people's lives," Mr Muratov told AFP last year. "We are not going anywhere."

Speaking in a video released by Heritage, the prominent journalist said that winning the Nobel "gives you an opportunity to be heard".

"The most important message today is for people to understand that there's a war going on and we need to help people who are suffering the most," he continued, pointing specifically to children in refugee families.

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