21:41 GMT +3 hours23 November 2014
Live
Russia

Russia's Memorial group wins EU's Sakharov Prize

Russia
(updated 18:26 28.10.2014)
00
Russia's Memorial human rights group was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament on Thursday.

BRUSSELS, October 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Memorial human rights group was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament on Thursday.

The prize, named after the late Soviet scientist, dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov, was given to Memorial leader Oleg Orlov, as well as activists Lyudmila Alekseyeva and Sergei Kovalev.

Memorial originally began life as an organization devoted to documenting Stalin-era human rights abuses, but has expanded its activities in recent years. Sakharov was its first leader.

The group hit the headlines in July when activist Natalya Estemirova was shot dead in Russia's North Caucasus. Orlov was later sued by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov over comments suggesting that the Chechen leader was responsible for her death.

"I consider this a mark of the high value placed on the work of Memorial and that of all of our colleagues - Russian rights activists who are working in a very difficult situation," Orlov told RIA Novosti.

However, he also noted soberly that the "situation in Russia" was deteriorating.

"This prize has been bestowed on us at a time when the situation in Russia is, from both my point of view and the point of view of my colleagues, heading in completely the opposite direction from the one we would like to see."

"This means we are not working enough," he went on. "The results of our work are far from satisfactory."

Orlov dedicated the prize to the memory of Estemirova.

"I think that first of all this award is for her," he said.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded by the European Parliament every year since 1988 to individuals or organizations. This year's award coincides with the 20th anniversary of Sakharov's death.

The prize ceremony will take place in Strasbourg on 16 December.