17 Jul 2011

German award to Putin cancelled

2:50 pm on 17 July 2011

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will no longer be awarded a prestigious German rights prize after the move was widely criticised.

The Quadriga Prize is given annually to ''role models who are committed to enlightenment, commitment and welfare''.

The BBC reports the decision to give it to Mr Putin was angrily received by his critics, who said it made a mockery of the award.

Former Czech President Vaclav Havel had threatened to return his own prize in protest at last week's announcement.

The Quadriga, named after the statue on top of the Brandenberg Gate in Berlin, is awarded annually on the anniversary of German re-unification.

It is ''dedicated to all those whose courage tears down walls and whose commitment builds bridges''.

Organisers said they were retracting Mr Putin's award with ''great regret,'' citing ''massive criticism in the media and the political world'' over their choice.

No awards will be given in 2011 and the panel said they would ''see how it continues next year''.

Critics say Mr Putin oversaw oppressive government policies and curbs on civilian liberties while serving as president between 2000 - 2008.

Germany's human rights commissioner Markus Loening said it was ''downright cynical'' for Mr Putin to be put in the same group as previous winners Mikhail Gorbachev and Mr Havel.

''It devalues the prize,'' he said last week.

Last year's winner, Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, has already returned his award.

A spokesman for Mr Putin said the row would have no effect on Russia-German ties and that Moscow would ''treat with respect any decision by this organisation''.