German group withdraws Putin 'role model' prize
The organisers of a prominent German political prize bowed to public pressure Saturday and withdrew its choice of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for the annual role model award.
The Werkstatt Deutschland organisation cited "massive criticism in the media and the political world" over its plans to give Putin the Quadriga Award that recognises "role models for enlightenment, dedication and the public good."
The group said it "profoundly regretted the news that (former Czech president) Vaclav Havel wanted to return his prize received in 2009" in protest at Putin's nomination.
"It pains us all that (Havel) apparently no longer sees fit to remain in the fold of recipients," the nominating committee said.
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 also "apologised to everyone involved," in the ordeal.
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 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