VILNIUS – Lithuania has awarded this year's Freedom Prize to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as his country is fighting Russia's invasion.
"Today, Ukraine is a European democracy forced to fight for the survival of its territory, culture and people, as well as for the freedom of all of us. That is why the Freedom Prize Commission has proposed awarding this year's Freedom Prize to the president of Ukraine for his and the entire Ukrainian nation's merits in their struggle for independence, freedom and democracy in the face of Russia's military aggression," Speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen said on Tuesday.
"As Ukraine's president, he has been at the forefront of this fight for freedom, inspiring millions of people in Ukraine through his personal leadership and example to resist and not to surrender, and having also united the entire global community against the criminal Putin regime," she said.
113 Lithuanian lawmakers voted in favor of the decision on Tuesday, with no votes against or abstentions.
The Freedom Prize was established by the Lithuanian parliament in 2011 to honor "individuals and organizations for their achievements in and contribution to the defense of human rights, development of democracy, and promotion of international cooperation for the cause of self-determination and sovereignty of the nations in Eastern and Central Europe".
The prize, which amounts to 5,000 euros, is presented every year on January 13, when Lithuania marks the Day of the Defenders of Freedom.
The first Freedom Prize was awarded in 2011 to Sergei Kovalev, a Russian fighter for freedom and democracy and defender of human rights.
The list of awardees also includes Antanas Terleckas, a former political prisoner and founder of the political organization Lithuanian Freedom League; Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius, the founder and editor of the underground Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania; Adam Michnik, a Polish dissident and editor-in-chief of the daily Gazeta Wyborcza; former Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus; Lithuania's first post-independence leader Vytautas Landsbergis; dissident nun Nijole Sadunaite; seven partisans who fought against Soviet occupation – Jonas Ceponis, Jonas Kadzionis, Juozas Jakavonis, Bronislavas Juospaitis, Vytautas Balsys, Jonas Abukauskas and Juozas Mocys, and Albinas Kentra, a chronicler of the Lithuanian Atgimimas (Revival) movement.
The award went to Belarus' democratic opposition in 2020 and to three contributors to the Soviet-era underground Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania – Gerarda Suliauskaite, Bernadeta Maliskaite and Jonas Boruta – in 2021.