Orlov sentence in Russia an attempt to 'silence' Putin critics: Nobel Committee

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The committee that decides the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, said Wednesday that the sentencing of human rights campaigner Oleg Orlov in Russia to a prison term was an attempt to "silence" critics.

The 70-year-old Orlov -- a key figure of the Nobel Prize-winning Memorial group -- was sentenced to two and a half years in jail for denouncing Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Tuesday.

Jorgen Watne Frydnes, Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said in a statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin's "regime has for many years tried to silence the leadership of Memorial and other important civil society organisations in Russia.

"They are now using the war on Ukraine as a pretext to finish the job," Frydnes said in a statement.

"It is important that they won't succeed," Frydnes added.

In 2022, Memorial was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Ales Bialiatski from Belarus and Ukraine's Center for Civil Liberties.

The Nobel Committee said that Memorial was honoured for "its outstanding efforts in documenting war crimes, human rights abuses, and the abuse of power in the former Soviet Union as well as in post-Soviet Russia."

Orlov was accused of discrediting the Russian army in a column written for the French online publication Mediapart, and fined in October after a first trial.

The fine was a relatively lenient punishment and prosecutors called for a new trial.

Created in the late 1980s, Memorial established itself as a key pillar of Russian civil society by preserving the memory of victims of communist repression and by campaigning against rights violations.

Russian authorities officially disbanded the organisation in late 2021 amid an already tightening repression.