Greens leader protests German prize for Putin

12th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

A leader of Germany's opposition Green party resigned Tuesday from a board awarding a prominent political prize to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, saying he could not accept the choice.

"In my view, the Quadriga prize should go to people who have done a particular service to democracy and its promotion," he said in a statement.

"I do not see Vladimir Putin among those ranks."

Ozdemir said he raised his objections last month at a meeting of the 20 trustees of the Werkstatt Deutschland organisation, which bestows the prize each year on the anniversary of German reunification on October 3.

He dismissed a claim by the group that he had abstained from the vote that selected Putin for the prize, named for the four-horse sculpture atop Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of national unity.

Previous winners include former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Czech ex-president Vaclav Havel and Serbian President Boris Tadic.

Despite fervent criticism, the board defended its decision Tuesday, saying the prize was firmly rooted "in the tradition of the transformation of 1989/90" when the Berlin Wall fell and Germany unified.

"The continuity and further development of the newly established relationship of trust between Russia and Germany after German and European unification is among the biggest achievements of Vladimir Putin," it said in a statement.

Putin worked as a KGB agent in the eastern German city of Dresden in the 1980s and speaks fluent German.

After becoming president in 2000, he cultivated close ties with then German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who now works for Russian energy giant Gazprom.

During his presidency until 2008, the state wrested back control of major media outlets, subjected rights groups to a wave of new restrictions and dealt harshly with perceived opponents.

Putin 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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