Ukraine: a Russian Nobel laureate redistributes via UNICEF the millions from the sale of his medal

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The editor of the independent Russian news service Novaya Gazeta – shut down by the Kremlin in March following new restrictions on journalists following the invasion of Ukraine – said he and his colleagues even chose UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, as the best non-governmental organization to ensure that funds reach all Ukrainian children in need.

“This is what we need”

“UNICEF is 100% trusted,” Muratov told UN News’ Russian service in an exclusive interview on Tuesday after the auction. “They have great professionals, they have programs, they are transparent about how they work and use funds – that’s what we need.”

“We wrote them a letter, they replied to us, their letter is in my possession. It was important to me that UNICEF agreed with our desire that the money be distributed among all the countries bordering Ukraine where there are refugees, without exception”.

He added that he hoped Ukrainian children currently in Russia would also benefit: “There are more than one and a half million refugees in Russia, maybe a little less. That is why [nous avons choisi] UNICEF, which has the skills required for this, and whose mission is in no way political, only humanitarian”.

The Russian Nobel laureate, who received the gold medal in October 2021, along with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa – for services to free speech and fearless reporting in the face of harassment and death threats – said that never in his “wildest dreams” he had expected the auction to reach such a sum.

In his most optimistic estimates, he expected them to reach $5 million at most.

Checks on the enlargers

Mr Muratov said that the auctioneers, at the request of UNICEF, had carried out checks on the various bidders, including the one who won the big prize, in order to ensure that this money did not come from neither from the pockets of an oligarch, nor from organized crime.

“They did checks through the banking system, the financial system, and all I can say with 100% certainty is that this money is absolutely transparent,” he told UN News.

Mr. Muratov, however, did not want to reveal the identity of the winner, indicating that he did not know his name and that anonymity had been guaranteed: “If I knew, I would not divulge it, because it This is a pure conflict of interest: people accepted the rules we proposed, we cannot circumvent these rules after the fact. It’s impossible “.

“It’s my country’s fault”

Explaining the many reasons why his publication could not imagine allowing a Russian bidder to enter, or why he believed his paper should not hand over the money directly to the Ukrainian government, he said that would be impossible. given the current course of the war.
“If at the beginning [les Ukrainiens] were angry, now they are beside themselves. Their country is being split in two, disappearing from the face of the earth. If they live every second under the sound of sirens, between an apartment and a bomb shelter, it is the fault of my country”.

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