Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov has auctioned off his Nobel Peace Prize for a record $103.5m (£84.3m) to aid Ukrainian children displaced by Russia’s unprovoked war.
Mr Muratov, the 60-year-old editor-in-chief of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and a fierce critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin, received the Nobel Peace Prize last year along with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa for fighting for the freedom of the press under challenging conditions.
Monday’s auction proceedings will go towards Unicef’s humanitarian appeal for Ukraine’s displaced children, said Heritage Auctions, which conducted the sale in New York.
According to the auction house, the winning bid was made by proxy and the identity of the owner was not revealed. However, the $103.5m sale translates to exactly 100m Swiss francs, which has been seen as a hint that the buyer is from overseas.
“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,” Mr Muratov said after bidding in the nearly 3-week auction ended on World Refugee Day.
The auction was reportedly Mr Muratov’s idea, and he had already announced that he would be donating the $500,000 (£407,000) cash award to charity.
Minutes after the bidding ended, Unicef informed the auction house it had already received the funds.
The bidding began on 1 June through telephones and online. On Monday morning the highest bid was only at $550,000 (£447,000), after which bids quickly started to climb over $1m (£810,000) and beyond.
“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.
Mr Muratov’s Nobel auction has shattered previous records for sales of Nobel medals, with the previous highest sale fetching $4.76m (£3.88m) in 2014, a figure paid for biologist James Watson’s 1962 Nobel for medicine.
“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,” said Mr Benesh.
When melted down, the 175 grams of 23-karat gold in Mr Muratov’s medal is estimated to be worth nearly $10,000 (£8,100).
Mr Muratov’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper had to suspend operations in Russia in March after warnings from the Kremlin over its coverage of the war in Ukraine. In April, he was attacked with red oil paint and acetone on a train for criticising the Russian president and his newspaper’s coverage of the war.