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Lithuania Awards Ukrainian President Zelenskiy With 2022 Freedom Prize.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (file photo)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (file photo)

Lithuania has presented Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy with the 2022 Freedom Prize at a ceremony hosted by the Lithuanian parliament.

Ukrainian Ambassador to Lithuania Petro Beshta accepted the award on Zelenskiy's behalf on January 13, which is Lithuania’s Freedom Defenders’ Day commemorating the deaths of 14 civilians killed in 1991 by Soviet troops following Lithuania's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union.

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Zelenskiy, who participated in the ceremony virtually, expressed his gratitude to the people of Lithuania for their support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia's ongoing unprovoked invasion launched in February last year.
“I want to thank you for not betraying freedom for a minute -- and not only in these 323 brutal days of Russia’s inhuman war, when we have felt your support all the time,” said Zelenskiy, who was selected last month by Lithuania’s parliament, the Seimas, to receive the award. He said the “free hearts of Lithuanians” and Lithuania’s path toward Europe had inspired countless people in various countries once enslaved by Russia. “Lithuania has been, and I am sure still is, one of the sincerest defenders of freedom, and this is the best tribute to the heroes who defeated the empire in those winter days 32 years ago,” Zelenskiy emphasized. The Freedom Prize was established by the Lithuanian parliament in 2011 to honor “individuals and organizations for their achievements in and contribution to the defense of human rights, development of democracy, and promotion of international cooperation for the cause of self-determination and sovereignty of the nations in Eastern and Central Europe.” The prize, which includes 5,000 euros ($5,400), is presented annually on January 13, when Lithuania honors the victims of the country’s Bloody Sunday. In addition to the 14 civilians who were killed, hundreds of others were injured in Vilnius. The deadly clashes in Lithuania 32 years ago are considered a turning point in the efforts of Lithuania and two other Baltic states, Estonia and Latvia, to gain independence from the Soviet Union.

With reporting by dpa and Lrt.lt

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