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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 January, 2005, 13:30 GMT
Russians win human rights prize
Anna Politkovskaya
Anna Politkovskaya investigates rights abuses in Chechnya
Two Russian human rights activists and a journalist have been awarded the 2004 Olof Palme Prize.

The Palme Memorial Fund, set up by the slain Swedish prime minister's family, called the winners "symbols of the long battle for human rights in Russia".

Lyudmila Alekseyeva, Sergey Kovalyov and Anna Politkovskaya will receive a diploma and a $50,000 (26,600) cheque.

Previous winners include Czech President Vaclav Havel and Amnesty International.

Former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix received the award last year.

The human rights situation in Russia has been attracting increasing international attention ever since former KGB security police agent, Vladimir Putin, became president.

Russian human rights activists deal with a wide range of issues, including the war in Chechnya, the Yukos oil company case, espionage accusations against scientists and journalists, claims of bullying of army conscripts and police abuse.

Dissident legacy

Ms Alekseyeva and Mr Kovalyov are among the few former Soviet dissidents who remained active after the collapse of the USSR.

The three prize winners are all influential symbols of the long battle for human rights in Russia
Olof Palme Memorial Fund

Ms Alekseyeva, was one of the founders of the underground Moscow Helsinki group. She was forced to emigrate after a clampdown on the group in 1977. In 1993, she returned to Russia to head the group, now registered as a public organisation.

In 1996, she was elected the head of the International Helsinki Federation, uniting human rights activists from different countries. She is also a member of the presidential commission on human rights.

Mr Kovalyov, a former political prisoner and a close friend of the late academician Andrei Sakharov, was the Russia's ombudsman, but resigned in 1996 protesting against the war in Chechnya.

Ms Politkovskaya, the Novaya Gazeta newspaper journalist, belongs to the new generation of human rights advocates. She conducted investigations of human rights abuses in Chechnya and was several times detained or threatened by the Russian military.

The prize will be awarded in Stockholm on 28 January.

Olof Palme was shot dead in 1986, as he and his wife walked home unguarded from a cinema. His killer has never been caught.


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