Vaclav Havel hails retraction of Putin 'role model' prize

16th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Former Czech president Vaclav Havel welcomed a German panel's decision Saturday to retract a role model prize, the same he received in 2009, from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

"Vaclav Havel thinks it was very wise of the panel to reconsider its choice," Havel's secretary Sabina Tancevova told AFP.

"The award should be given to people like Anna Politkovskaya or Sergei Kovalov or Liu Xiaobo -- people who devoted their lives to protection of human rights and freedoms and promoting democracy," she added.

The German media reported earlier that Havel wanted to return his award in protest at Putin's nomination.

The Werkstatt Deutschland organisation cited "massive criticism in the media and the political world" over its plans to give Putin the private Quadriga Award that recognises "role models for enlightenment, dedication and the public good."

The Quadriga panel voiced "great regret" that it is was forced to retract the prize, but said "the growing pressure was becoming increasingly unsustainable and risked escalating further."

Organisers "apologised to everyone involved."

The prize has been awarded every year since 2003 on October 3, the anniversary of German unification.

Those who opposed Putin's nomination said honouring him would discredit previous winners, like Havel, and make a mockery of human rights defenders.

Putin entered the Kremlin as president in 2000 and remained until 2008. In that time the state wrested back control of major media outlets, subjected rights groups to a wave of new restrictions and dealt harshly with perceived opponents.

He now serves as prime minister and has remained the country's most popular politician. Neither he nor current president Dmitry Medvedev have said which of them will run in presidential elections scheduled for March.

© 2011 AFP

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