Facing political pressure, the organization has re-imposed its ban on Russian, Belarusian, and Iranian envoys
The Nobel Foundation has reversed its decision to invite ambassadors from Russia, Belarus, and Iran to its annual awards ceremony in Sweden in December. The foundation’s previous decision to invite these ambassadors provoked outrage from Ukrainian and Swedish politicians.
Russia and Belarus were barred from last year’s awards ceremony over the conflict in Ukraine, while Iran was excluded due to anti-government protests happening in Tehran at the time. However, the foundation announced on Thursday that ambassadors from all three countries would be invited to this year’s ceremony in order to facilitate “dialogue between those with differing views.”
Two days later, these invitations have been revoked. “We recognize the strong reactions in Sweden, which completely overshadowed this message,” the foundation said in a statement on Saturday. “The board of the Nobel Foundation, therefore, choose to repeat last year’s exception to regular practice – that is, to not invite the ambassadors of Russia, Belarus and Iran to the Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm.”
Ambassadors from Russia, Belarus, and Iran will still be invited to a separate ceremony in Oslo, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded. Last year’s peace prize was awarded to anti-government activists in Russia and Belarus, and to a Ukrainian NGO that accused Russian forces of war crimes. In Saturday’s statement, the foundation described this as a “clear political message.”
The decision to invite the ambassadors caused uproar in Kiev. A spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry declared that by inviting Russian officials to the ceremony, the Nobel Foundation would encourage Moscow’s “feeling of impunity.” The spokesman called on the foundation to “support international efforts to isolate Russia and Belarus.”
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told Swedish news agency TT that it “is necessary” to “isolate Russia in every possible way,” while representatives of Sweden’s Center Party, Left Party, and Green Party threatened to boycott the event if the invitations were not withdrawn.
Despite leading Sweden’s second-most popular party, Jimmie Akesson of the right-wing Sweden Democrats was not invited to last year’s ceremony. Although he received an invitation this year, he declined, writing on Facebook “I’m busy that day.”