The Nobel Peace Prize that Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov auctioned off to raise money for Ukraine’s child refugees has sold for 103.5 million dollars (£84.5m), shattering the old record for a Nobel. Previously, the most ever paid for a Nobel Prize medal was in 2014, when James Watson, whose co-discovery of the structure of DNA earned him a Nobel Prize in 1962, sold his medal for 4.76m (£3.9m) dollars.
Mr Muratov, who was awarded the gold medal in October 2021, helped found the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and was the publication’s editor-in-chief when it shut down in March amid the Kremlin’s clampdown on journalists and public dissent in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.
It was Mr Muratov’s idea to auction off his prize, having already announced he was donating the accompanying 500,000 dollars (£407,906) cash award to charity. The idea of the donation, he said, “is to give the children refugees a chance for a future”.
Mr Muratov said the proceeds from the auction which concluded on Monday night will go directly to Unicef in its efforts to help children displaced by the war in Ukraine. Melted down, the 175 grams of 23-karat gold contained in the medal would be worth about 10,000 dollars (£8,156).
In an interview with The Associated Press before the auction, Mr Muratov said he was particularly concerned about children who have been orphaned because of the conflict in Ukraine. “We want to return their future,” he said.
He added that it was important international sanctions levied against Russia do not prevent humanitarian aid, such as medicine for rare diseases and bone marrow transplants, from reaching those in need.
“It has to become a beginning of a flash mob as an example to follow so people auction their valuable possessions to help Ukrainians,” Mr Muratov said in a video released by Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale but is not taking any share of the proceeds.
Mr Muratov shared the Nobel Peace Prize last year with journalist Maria Ressa of the Philippines. The two journalists, who each received their own medals, were honoured for their battles to preserve free speech in their respective countries, despite coming under attack by harassment, being persecuted by their governments and receiving death threats.
Mr Muratov has been highly critical of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the war launched in February that has caused nearly five million Ukrainians to flee to other countries for safety, creating the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II.
Independent journalists in Russia have come under scrutiny by the Kremlin, if not outright targets of the government. Since Vladimir Putin came to power more than two decades ago, nearly two dozen journalists have been killed, including at least four who had worked for Mr Muratov’s newspaper.
In April, Mr Muratov said he was attacked with red paint while aboard a Russian train. Mr Muratov left Russia for Western Europe on Thursday to begin his trip to New York City, where the auction took place. Online bids began June 1 to coincide with the International Children’s Day observance.
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