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A democracy prize for Putin?

Vladimir Putin may have been upset that NATO’s bombing campaign could prevent him from ever joining Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega as a recipient of the "Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights". But lest he think that his habit of jailing opponents and muzzling the media means he’ll never receive recognition for his democracy-promotion efforts, ...

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Vladimir Putin may have been upset that NATO's bombing campaign could prevent him from ever joining Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega as a recipient of the "Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights". But lest he think that his habit of jailing opponents and muzzling the media means he'll never receive recognition for his democracy-promotion efforts, Germany's Quadriga prize is here to help. RFE/RL reports:

The Quadriga prize was established after German unification in 1990 to mark contributions to the spread of freedom and democracy.

The private award is little noticed outside Germany, until it emerged last week this year's prize is to go to Putin, which has drawn criticism from high quarters.

Vladimir Putin may have been upset that NATO’s bombing campaign could prevent him from ever joining Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega as a recipient of the "Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights". But lest he think that his habit of jailing opponents and muzzling the media means he’ll never receive recognition for his democracy-promotion efforts, Germany’s Quadriga prize is here to help. RFE/RL reports:

The Quadriga prize was established after German unification in 1990 to mark contributions to the spread of freedom and democracy.

The private award is little noticed outside Germany, until it emerged last week this year’s prize is to go to Putin, which has drawn criticism from high quarters.

Green Party co-leader Cem Ozdemir quit the Quadriga award’s board of trustees over the choice. "The Quadriga should go to people who have done a service to promoting democracy," he said in a statement. "I do not see Vladimir Putin among those ranks."

The government’s human rights commissioner, Markus Loning, told "Der Spiegel" magazine the decision "devalues" the prize. "It’s downright cynical to put Putin in the same group with Mikhail Gorbachev and Vaclav Havel," he said.

The prize board chose Putin because of his contributions to improving German-Russian relations, which might have been a significant enough achievement to overlook the prime minister’s drawbacks if Russia and Germany had been lobbing missiles at each other until 1999.

According to this Wikipedia page, past Quadriga recipients are a pretty eclectic lot. In addition to Gorbachev and Havel, there’s Shimon Peres, Helmut Kohl, Hamid Karzai, Internet pioneer Timothy Berners-Lee and, um, Peter Gabriel. Putin may also have mixed feelings about being on the same list as 2006 winner Viktor Yushchenko.   

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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