The GQ Russia Person of the Year awards — typically an ordinary star-studded affair — turned political Tuesday night when recipients took turns voicing their opinions on this summer’s high-profile news stories.

Award winners praised the recent Russian-Ukrainian prisoner exchange and the release of Meduza investigative journalist Ivan Golunov amid near-unprecedented outcry over his arrest on drug charges in June. Some spotlighted claims of voter fraud during Sunday’s regional and local elections, while others highlighted the plight of activists who took to the streets ahead of the closely watched vote.