The organizers of a prominent German political prize have bowed to public pressure and withdrew its choice of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for the annual role model award.
The Werkstatt Deutschland organization cited "massive criticism in the media and the political world"
over its plans to give Putin the Quadriga Award that recognizes "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."
It said it is calling off this year's award ceremony all together -- traditionally held on the anniversary of German reunification in October -- because of the "increasingly unbearable pressure."
A spokesman for Putin said the decision would not affect ties between Russia and Berlin.
"This has nothing to do with Russian-German ties," Dmitry Peskov told AFP.
The Putin government will "treat with respect any decision by this organization," he added.
compiled from agency reports