Latvian MPs oppose nomination of Kremlin business partner for Nobel Peace Prize

Twenty-one members of Latvia’s Parliament, the Saeima, have joined the international call for the Nobel Committee to reject the nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize of the Russian-Armenian businessman Ruben Vardanyan, who is called “Putin’s man and accomplice of the Russian-fascist invaders” in the world media and in European parliaments.

A collective open letter from Latvian MPs calls on the committee not to include Vardanyan among the nominees for the most prestigious award on the planet and not to contribute to whitening the reputation of an international criminal was published on June 3, reports.

Over the past two months, 122 MPs from four countries have already made a similar call. Among them, 18 MPs of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, 71 MPs (that is, every second) of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania and 12 members of the Chamber of MPs of Romania, as well as Member of the European Parliament from Romania Cristian Terheș.

The media explains this international resonance by the fact that Ruben Vardanyan is an odious figure and causes a sharply negative reaction almost everywhere except Russia and Iran, the main allies in the aggression against Ukraine.

In previous years, Vardanyan was included in draft sanctions and sanctions lists by members of the European Parliament , The US Congress, Ukraine led by Zelensky.

Ukrainian media reported that in 2023, the Security Service of Ukraine included him in the “Myrotvorets” database as “an accomplice of Russian-fascist invaders and terrorists… subject to immediate transfer to law enforcement agencies of Ukraine or Nato countries.”

Ruben Vardanyan is a Russian-Armenian figure who became famous, among other things, after an investigation by the international consortium of investigative journalists OCCRP (Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project). Journalists found out that money was being secretly transferred through his companies to Putin’s close friends.

In 2006-2013, more than $4.6 billion passed through the accounts of offshore networks of companies of the “Kremlin wallet” (as Vardanyan was dubbed in the media).

Major international media call Vardanyan “A Kremlin man ”, “close to Putin”, “representing the interests of the Kremlin”…

In addition to ties with Russia, Latvian MPs are outraged by Vardanyan’s role in the Kremlin’s policy aimed at strengthening ties with the Iranian regime.

“His connections with Iran can be traced through the Russian Gorchakov Foundation, which organizes events in various countries, including Armenia, with the participation of government-approved speakers from Tehran,” the letter from MPs to the Latvian Saeima said.

Particularly perplexing to parliamentarians is the fact that the nomination of pro-Russian protege Vardanyan occurred against the backdrop of increased support for Ukraine, which opposes the recent Russian offensive in Kharkiv, a large city in eastern Ukraine.

The letter states that the Nobel Committee can approve Vardanyan’s candidacy for the Peace Prize, although he “has been proven to be one of Putin’s “wallets”, and is also connected with Iran, which supplies drones to the Russian Federation to destroy the infrastructure of Ukraine and its civilians.” 

“During two years of war, Latvia provided assistance to Ukraine in the amount of more than 600 million euros, which is equivalent to 1% of Latvia’s GDP, and also against the background of the conclusion of a bilateral security agreement signed in April 2024, according to which Latvia undertakes to provide military assistance to Ukraine in the amount of 0.25% of GDP annually for ten years,” says an open letter from MPs of the Saeima of Latvia.

The MPs recalled how in the first year of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, in 2022, the ambassadors of Russia and Belarus to Sweden were not invited to the Nobel Prize presentation in the Swedish capital, Stockholm. And in 2023, invitations to the ambassadors of Russia, Belarus and Iran were first sent and then withdrawn after widespread public criticism of the Nobel committee.

Despite widespread coverage in the European media and public outrage from parliamentarians in four EU countries over the possible nomination of a “Kremlin partner,” the Nobel Committee has not yet responded to calls to reject Vardanyan’s candidacy, nor has it made any public comments.

(Main photo: Ernests Dinka, Saeimas Kanceleja)

Igor Chalenko

Igor Chalenko is an Ukrainian political scientist who heads the Centre for Analysis and Strategies, Ukraine.