President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday questioned the decision to award a Nobel Peace Prize to Russia’s Dmitry Muratov, chief editor of top independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta that this week lost its print licence.
“We are very glad that our citizen received a Nobel Peace Prize, but in my opinion the Nobel Committee has largely disavowed and devalued the significant of the Nobel prizes in this humanitarian field,” Putin told an economic forum in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok.
He was asked about this week’s decision to strip Novaya Gazeta, a leading independent publication, of its print licence, a decision that the outlet said “killed” the newspaper.
“We know a lot of cases when decisions are made exclusively under the influence of the current political situation. This does no honour to those who make such decision,” Putin said, citing in particular the Nobel Peace Prize awarded in 2009 to former US president Barack Obama.
“Why is he a Nobel prize winner? … What did he do for the defence of peace given the military action in certain regions of the world that had failed when he was president,” Putin said.
Russian independent media have in recent years faced unprecedented pressure, with authorities further tightening the screws since the start of Moscow’s February offensive in Ukraine.
Many independent outlets have continued their work from abroad after a series of restrictions were imposed on media coverage of the offensive.
Asked about journalists who have left Russia, Putin said they were “happy to be able to leave” because they have “always worked against our country”.
“Now they have happily moved away under the guise that something is threatening them here,” Putin added.
The president also backed a Russian court’s decision to jail a respected former defence reporter for 22 years on treason charges, saying his guilt was “proven”.
Ivan Safronov “earned his living not only from journalistic activities but by collecting materials and passing them to a Western intelligence service,” Putin said.
“The court considered that it was proven and made a relevant decision,” Putin added.
Safronov, 32, was sentenced on Monday for divulging state secrets in what supporters say was revenge for his work.