BOBBY KAINA KALVAN, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — The Nobel Peace Prize that Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov auctioned off to raise money for Ukrainian refugee children sold for $103.5 million on Monday night, breaking the old Nobel Prize record.
The Nobel Prize medal previously paid the most in 2014, when James Watson, whose co-discovery of the structure of DNA won him the Nobel Prize in 1962, sold his medal for $4.76 million.
Three years later, the family of its co-owner, Francis Crick, received $2.27 million in an auction organized by Heritage Auctions, the same company that auctioned the Muratov medal on World Refugee Day Monday.
Muratov, who was awarded a gold medal in October 2021, helped found the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and was its editor-in-chief when it closed in March amid Kremlin crackdowns on journalists and public dissent following the Russian invasion. Ukraine.
The idea to auction his prize was Muratov’s, as he had already announced that he would donate the enclosed $500,000 cash prize to charity. According to him, the idea behind the donation “is to give refugee children a chance for a future.”
Muratov said the proceeds would go directly to UNICEF to help children displaced by the war in Ukraine.
Melted down, the 175 grams of 23 carat gold contained in Muratov’s medal will cost about $10,000.
In an interview with The Associated Press ahead of the auction, Muratov said he was particularly concerned about children orphaned by the conflict in Ukraine.
“We want to give them back a future,” he said.
He added that it is important that international sanctions imposed on Russia do not prevent humanitarian aid, such as drugs for rare diseases and bone marrow transplants, from reaching those in need.
“This should be the start of a flash mob as a role model for people to sell their valuables to help Ukrainians,” Muratov said in a video posted by Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale but does not receive any share of the proceeds. .
Last year, Muratov shared the Nobel Peace Prize with journalist Maria Ressa from the Philippines.
The two journalists, who each received their own medals, were honored for fighting to preserve freedom of speech in their respective countries despite facing harassment and even death threats from their respective governments.
Muratov has been highly critical of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the war that began in February, which has seen nearly 5 million Ukrainians flee to other countries in search of safety, sparking Europe’s biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II.
Independent journalists in Russia have come under close scrutiny from the Kremlin, if not directly targeted by the government. Since Putin came to power more than two decades ago, nearly two dozen journalists have been killed, including at least four who worked for Muratov’s newspaper.
In April, Muratov claimed he was splashed with red paint while riding on a Russian train.
Muratov flew from Russia to Western Europe on Thursday to begin his trip to New York, where live trading will begin on Monday afternoon.
Online applications began on June 1st to coincide with the celebration of International Children’s Day.
As of early Monday, the maximum bid was $550,000. The purchase price was expected to rise, but may not exceed $100 million.
“This is a very personal deal,” said Joshua Benes, director of strategy at Heritage Auctions. “Not everyone in the world has a Nobel Prize to auction, and it’s not every day of the week that a Nobel Prize crosses the auction block.”
Since its inception in 1901, there have been about 1,000 Nobel Prize winners for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and the promotion of peace.
The ongoing war and international humanitarian efforts to alleviate the suffering of those affected in Ukraine are sure to spark interest, Beneš said, adding that it’s hard to predict how much someone is willing to pay for a medal.
“I think there will definitely be some excitement on Monday,” Beneš said. “This is such a unique item being sold under unique circumstances… a significant act of generosity and such a significant humanitarian crisis.”
Muratov and Heritage officials said even those not bidding can still help by donating directly to UNICEF.
Associated Press contributor Andrew Catell contributed to this report.
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