Dimitry Muratov, a journalist who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, has auctioned off his medal for $103.5 million and will be donating the money to help child refugees from Ukraine. The auction concluded on World Refugee Day, and the entire amount will be going to UNICEF’s humanitarian response for Ukrainian children who have been displaced by the war.
Since Russia’s invasion, there have been 7.7 million border crossings out of Ukraine, now over 5 million refugees have been recorded across Europe. According to UNICEF, the 7.5 million children of Ukraine have been deeply affected by the conflict. They have been separated from family, are lacking basic supplies and resources, and face daily threats of bombs and explosives.
Muratov shared the Nobel Prize in 2021 with Filipino American journalist Maria Ressa, judges described their work as “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression”. Muratov is the editor-in-chief of an independent Russian news outlet called Novaya Gazeta. According to the Nobel Peace Prize organization, he criticized the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, as well as Russia’s general use of military force within its borders and outside.
Due to Russia’s extreme censorship, six journalists from Muratov’s newspaper have been murdered, including Anna Politkovskaya who reported on human rights abuses in Chechnya. Politkovskaya was a large critic of the Kremlin as well. Since the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian government has criminalized the spread of “fake” information, meaning anything that discredits Russian armed forces or calls for sanctions against the country.
This crackdown on news outlets has forced many to shut down their newspapers and caused many journalists to leave Russia. In early March Novaya Gazeta removed any articles about the war in Ukraine from their website, citing government censorship as the reasoning. Since late March they have suspended their publication until the end of the war in Ukraine.
Prior to the auction, Muratov encouraged people from around the world to join the cause and make contributions, saying “right now, the award is an opportunity for me to share it with the people”. The auction for Muratov’s prize has shattered the record for any Nobel Peace Prize ever auctioned off, according to reports the second-highest sale went for just under $5 million.
Heritage Auctions stated before that “Mr. Muratov, with the full support of his staff at Novaya Gazeta, is allowing us to auction his medal not as a collectible but as an event that he hopes will positively impact the lives of millions of Ukrainian refugees.
When Muratov won the prize last year, he pledged to donate about $500,000 of the prize money to charities. He also dedicated the win to the six journalists from his newspaper who had been murdered.
The bidding began on June 1st, which happened to be International Children’s day, and the bids came by telephone or online. The final bid came by telephone from an individual who has not been identified and brought the bid from the low millions to the current amount. Muratov said in an interview after that he “was hoping that there was going to be an enormous amount of solidarity, but I was not expecting this to be such a huge amount”. UNICEF reported that they had received the funds moments after the auction had closed.