Russian Journalist Raises $103.5 Million for Ukrainian Kids

NEW YORK — The Nobel Peace Prize auctioned off by Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov to raise money for Ukrainian child refugees sold Monday night for $103.5 million, shattering the old record for a Nobel.

Heritage Auctions spokespeople could not verify the identity of buyer, but they said that proxy bids were accepted. This sale of $103.5 million amounts to $100 million Swiss Francs. It is possible that the buyer comes from abroad.

“I was hoping that there was going to be an enormous amount of solidarity, but I was not expecting this to be such a huge amount,” Muratov said in an interview after bidding in the nearly 3-week auction ended on World Refugee Day.

The previous highest price paid for a Nobel Prize Medal was $4.76million in 2014. This happened when James Watson’s discovery of DNA structure earned him the Nobel Prize in 1962. The family of Francis Crick, his co-recipient in the Nobel Prize, was awarded $2.27m through Heritage Auctions three years later.

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Muratov, who was awarded the gold medal in October 2021, helped found the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and was the publication’s editor-in-chief when it shut down in March amid the Kremlin’s clampdown on journalists and public dissent in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It was Muratov’s idea to auction off his prize, having already announced he was donating the accompanying $500,000 cash award to charity.

An employee holds Dmitry Muratov (Russian journalist)’s 23-karat, gold medal to the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. The item is then auctioned at New York’s Times Center on Monday, June 20, 2022.

AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez

Muratov said that all proceeds would go to UNICEF, which aids children who have been displaced in the wake of the Ukraine war. UNICEF informed the auction house that it already had the money just minutes after the bidding closed.

Online bids had begun June 1 to coincide with the International Children’s Day observance. Many of the bids were made online and by telephone. Telephone bidding was very popular and the winning bid took the bidding to new heights.

Muratov left Russia Thursday morning to start his journey to New York City. Live bidding started Monday night.

On Monday morning, the highest offer was just $550,000. The purchase price had been expected to spiral upward — but not over $100 million.

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“I can’t believe it. I’m awestruck. Personally, I’m flabbergasted. I’m stunned. I don’t really know what happened in there,” said Joshua Benesh, the chief strategy officer for Heritage Auctions.

“We knew that there was a tremendous groundswell of interest in the last couple of days by people who were moved by Dimitry’s story, by Dimitry’s act of generosity, that the global audience was listening tonight,” he said.

Heritage and Muratov representatives said that people who were not in the bidding could still donate directly to UNICEF.

One of the windows of a train in Przemysl (Poland) shows a girl fleeing the conflict in Ukraine. She was looking out from the window.

Christoph Reichwein/picture alliance via Getty Images

Muratov and Maria Ressa, a journalist from the Philippines, shared last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Both journalists were awarded their medals and were recognized for fighting to keep free speech alive in their respective countries despite being harassed by their governments, threatened with death, or even threats of violence.

Melted down, the 175 grams of 23-karat gold contained in Muratov’s medal would be worth about $10,000.

Muratov has been highly critical of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the war launched in February that has caused nearly 5 million Ukrainians to flee to other countries for safety, creating the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II.

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The Kremlin has been examining independent journalists in Russia and making them targets, if they are not directly targeted. Since Putin came into power more than two decades ago, nearly two dozen journalists have been killed, including at least four who had worked for Muratov’s newspaper.

Muratov stated that in April, he received red paint from an attacker while riding on a Russian train.

The Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, and Peace has been awarded to nearly 1000 people since 1901.

Andrew Katell, an Associated Press journalist, contributed to the report

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