Valentin Urusov, the Russian electrician and trade unionist unjustly imprisoned for years in a Siberian penal colony, received the international Arthur Svensson Prize for Trade Union Rights in 2013. Urusov led the trade union Profsvoboda at Alrosa, the world’s second largest diamond mining company, based in the northern Sakha province of Russia.
Urusov, who was released from prison in March—after he was nominated for the prize—was jailed in 2008 for allegedly possessing narcotics. However, his arrest coincided suspiciously with preparations for a protest rally by workers at the state-owned Alrosa—a rally which Urusov helped organize. He was sentenced to six years in a penal colony.
In awarding the prize, given by the Norwegian trade union movement, committee chairman Lief Sande said “Urusov has become symbolic of the struggle for workers’ rights and freedom of association in Russia.”
Further, the award committee noted its concern about the workers’ rights situation in Russia, writing, “Freedom of association and the right to strike have long been under pressure, and “it may appear that conditions are deteriorating further.”
The global union, IndustriAll, a strong voice among unions leading the fight for Urusov’s release, congratulated Urusov, calling him a “heroic Russian trade unionist.”
The prize is named for the former leader of the Norwegian Union of Chemical Industry Workers, Arthur Svensson, who was especially engaged in international solidarity.