Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov, a world-renowned Russian journalist, has auctioned off his Nobel Prize medal to raise money for Ukrainian child refugees. The medal sold last Monday night for a record-breaking $103.5 million, shows a united front across the globe to help Ukraine win the war.

The Nobel Peace Prize

Muratov won the Nobel Peace Prize last year with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa for their vital contributions to journalism and the freedom of speech in their respective countries, both of which were backsliding into authoritarianism.

Muratov is the editor-in-chief of “Novaya Gazeta,” an independent newspaper outlet in Russia that has since suffered from the effects of the Russian government trying to sensor Russian media following the invasion of Ukraine. Like Muratov, Ressa also heads an independent news outlet in the Philippines, “Rappler,” which has since been attacked by the outgoing Duterte Administration.

Muratov’s $103.5 million will reportedly go to UNICEF’s child refugee fund, as Heritage Auctions would reveal in a tweet. If the medal were melted down, the 175 grams of 23-karat gold would be worth some $10,000, thus exceeding its monetary value.

The anti-war journalist was happy that he was able to raise this money for Ukrainian children. He said it exceeded what he initially thought it would go for. Moreover, the sale broke records; the last time a Nobel Prize medal was auctioned, it only garnered $4.76 million in 2014. This was James Watson’s medal for discovering the double helix structure of DNA, which he won in 1962 along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins.

“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 said during a video message from Heritage Auctions.

He hoped that his act of donating all the proceeds of the sale to Ukrainian children refugees would inspire others to follow in his footsteps and donate further to these children who have nothing to do with the war.

“It has to become the beginning of a flash mob or as an example to follow, so people auction their valuable possessions to help Ukrainian refugees,” he stated, adding that he wanted to give Ukrainian refugees a chance for the future.

“We want to return their future,” he said.

Chief Strategy Officer for Heritage Auctions Joshua Benesh stated that he was “awestruck” and “flabbergasted” at what had just transpired in the auction house.

“I can’t believe it. I’m awestruck. Personally, I’m flabbergasted. I’m stunned. I don’t really know what happened in there,” Benesh said.

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“We knew that there was a tremendous groundswell of interest in the last couple of days by people who were moved by Dmitry’s story, by Dmitry’s act of generosity, that the global audience was listening tonight,” he added.

Fighting Against the Odds

Maria Ressa (left) and Dmitry Muratov (right) after receiving their Nobel Peace Prizes in Oslo, Norway (The Nobel Prize). Source: https://twitter.com/NobelPrize/status/1471480488661553152
Maria Ressa (left) and Dmitry Muratov (right) after receiving their Nobel Peace Prizes in Oslo, Norway (The Nobel Prize/Twitter)

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Muratov said his publication would be releasing editions both in Russia and Ukraine as a symbol of their opposition to the war. As a result, “Novaya Gazeta” was one of the first newspapers to report on the Russo-Ukrainian war with the very strong headline “Russia Is Bombing Ukraine.” The headline was published on February 24, the first day of the invasion, and printed in both Russian and Ukrainian.

Russia was quick to counter Muratov’s effort on freedom of speech. Because his message resonated with many Russians, wide-scale protests filled up the streets and the Russian authorities became harsher in enforcing their media ban on the invasion.

The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnador) visited them on March 4 with an official warning, telling the newspaper to remove reporting and anything related to the war from their headlines and platforms. They also suspended online and print news after receiving another warning from the authorities.

Novaya Gazeta launch Novaya Gazeta Europe in April, headed by Russian journalist Kirill Martynov as the Russian government continue its efforts to silence the original Novaya Gazeta. The Europe team is composed of staffers who left Russia legally. Following this announcement, Muratov was attacked on a train in Moscow, where he was doused with red paint. This paint reportedly contains acetone and would burn his eyes.

“Muratov, here’s one for our boys!” the assailant would yell during the attack, referencing Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine. Later, it was determined that the attacker was from a Russian intelligence unit.

Almost all of Russia’s independent media are non-existent due to the systemic attack on the freedom of speech in Russia. Many news outlets, such as TV Rain, ended their final broadcast with an anti-war stance, publicly letting Putin know of their dissent towards the invasion. Just very recently, Russian journalist and FSB expert Andrei Soldatov was put on the most wanted list for exposing the inner workings of the FSB and what had been going on within the intelligence service during the invasion.

In May 2022, the International Press Institute recorded 356 attacks on journalists and acts of censorship in Russia, leading many to believe that the independent press may be dead in the country.