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Russian rights activist has fighting words over Peace Prize choice

By Sergeo L. Loiko, Los Angeles Times –

MOSCOW — In Russia many perceived the decision as strange and curious to say the least.

Veteran human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the fourth time, called the Nobel committee’s selection Friday of the European Union “absurd.”

“It is a prize that in my opinion goes nowhere,” Gannushkina, a board member of the human rights Memorial society, said in an interview. “Who gets the prize: the nations of the European Union or the bureaucratic structure that manages it?”

“And after all, European states haven’t been all that peaceful in recent years,” she said. “They fought in Yugoslavia, Iraq and they are still fighting in Afghanistan, something I can’t approve of at all.”

Gannushkina complained that the Memorial society, which was on the short list of Peace Prize nominees, is undergoing a very difficult period, because funding for its North Caucasus program has been cut as a result of the expulsion from Russia of its main donor, USAID.

“If the Peace Prize were awarded to the Memorial it could make the Kremlin have another thing coming before completely shutting us down, which is quite possible now,” Gannushkina said. According to the new legislation, the Memorial and other human rights groups operating in Russia that are sponsored from abroad have to officially declare themselves “foreign agents” or face the prospects of being closed.

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