Russian Journalist Sells Nobel Peace Prize to Anonymous Bidder for Over $103M to Help Ukrainian Child Refugees

"This remarkable contribution will help Ukrainian children survive this brutal war and, someday, rebuild their lives," said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell

Dmitry Muratov
Dmitry Muratov. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty

Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov is putting his 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to good use.

The sale of Muratov's medal fetched $103.5 million at auction — and all proceeds will go towards supporting UNICEF's humanitarian relief efforts for Ukrainian child refugees and their families, Heritage Auctions announced in a press release on Tuesday.

"Several months ago, we at Novaya Gazeta asked ourselves what we could do to stop the war and help these civilians get their lives back," Muratov, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper — a "leading advocate for democracy and freedom of expression in Russia," per the Nobel Peace Prize organization — said on Monday, when bidding closed to coincide with World Refugee Day.

"We decided to sell our Nobel Peace Prize medal through Heritage Auctions, which managed the process very efficiently and waved all their fees and commissions completely," added Muratov.

When live bidding for the medal began, the price quickly reached the $1 million mark — and then kept climbing, according to the auction house press release.

After about 23 minutes, an anonymous bidder placed the winning bid of $103.5 million over the phone. Heritage Auctions says the money has already been sent to UNICEF.

Dmitry Muratov
Dmitry Muratov's medal. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP

"We were honored to work with Dmitry, eager to facilitate this opportunity with UNICEF, and we're completely awestruck at the end result," Joshua Benesh, Chief Strategy Officer at Heritage Auctions, said in a statement.

"This remarkable contribution will help Ukrainian children survive this brutal war and, someday, rebuild their lives. We hope Mr. Muratov's gift inspires others to support vulnerable children in Ukraine and everywhere," added UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. "We also want to thank the anonymous bidder, whose winning bid will do so much for so many."

According to the latest data from UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, there have been over 7.7 million border crossings from Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in late February.

RELATED VIDEO: Missouri Mom Travels Half a World Away to Help 31 Orphans Escape from Ukraine

Back in March, Muratov first announced that he wanted to auction off his medal to help raise money for Ukrainian refugees.

"Right now, the award is an opportunity for me to share it with people," he said prior to the auction, according to CNN.

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Muratov, who was named one of TIME's Most Influential People of 2022, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 alongside Filipino journalist Maria Ressa. They received the award in recognition of their "efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace," according to the Nobel Peace Prize organization.

Under his leadership, the newspaper has criticized "the Russian authorities for corruption, electoral fraud and human rights violations," per the organization.

They went on to note that six journalists from the newspaper have been murdered after writing "critical articles on Russian military operations in Chechnya and the Caucasus," including Anna Politkovskaya.

Muratov was forced to suspend publication of Novaya Gazeta in late March after receiving a second warning from the government, according to Heritage Auctions.

According to CNN, the suspension will remain until the end of the war in Ukraine.

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.

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