Ambassadors from Russia and Belarus have been invited back to the Nobel Prize banquet after being excluded last year because of Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Nobel Foundation said.
The foundation said it is "broadening our invitations" to involve even those who do not share the values of the Nobel Prize.
“It is clear that the world is increasingly divided into spheres, where dialogue between those with differing views is being reduced,” Vidar Helgesen, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, said in a statement Thursday.
“To counter this tendency, we are now broadening our invitations to celebrate and understand the Nobel Prize and the importance of free science, free culture and free, peaceful societies,” Helgesen said.
Russians and Belarusians have been excluded from countless events since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which has been heavily assisted by Minsk, in February 2022.
The foundation said its decision was made to prevent further “polarisation.”
The Nobel Banquet takes place annually in Stockholm on December 10, where five out of six Nobel Prizes are awarded. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway.
Swift criticism: Ukraine has condemned the decision and urged the foundation to reverse course.
"Most likely, the day the Russian ambassador sits in a nice suit in the Stockholm Concert Hall, the Russian army will be committing yet another war crime in the occupied Ukrainian territories, and Russian missiles will be destroying yet another residential neighborhood in Ukrainian cities," foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said Friday.
A Swedish member of the European Parliament also called the decision “extremely inappropriate.”
On Swedish national radio, Swedish Liberal MEP Karin Karlsbro questioned why the foundation invited “three rogue states … that suppress their citizens, wage war and terror both in their own and neighboring countries” and “in no way subscribe to democratic values.”
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has said he would not have made the decision to invite Russia back to the banquet held in his country.
“The Nobel Foundation naturally decides themselves who they want to invite. But I, like many others, reacted with great surprise that Russia was invited,” Kristersson said in a statement sent to CNN on Friday.
“I understand that it upsets many people in both Sweden and Ukraine,” he added.
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CNN’s Niamh Kennedy and Henrik Pettersson contributed reporting to this post.