Putin's prize

  • Article by: SUSAN HOGAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 17, 2011 - 8:01 PM

China's Premier Wen Jiabao, right, gestures to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011.

Photo: Takuro Yabe, Associated Press - Ap

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Vladimir Putin, man of peace.

That's not how I think of Russia's prime minister, but I have no sway with the grass-roots committee of 16 Chinese scholars who have awarded Putin the Confucius Peace Prize.

Fortunately, the "honor" hasn't been as well-received as the self-appointed group would like. The Chinese government isn't on board. And last year's winner was a no-show at the awards ceremony.

Even so, the group persists. It's hailing Putin's decision to send forces into Chechnya in 1999 to crush an uprising there. That made Putin a national hero, the committee said.

"His iron hand and toughness revealed in this war impressed the Russians a lot," said a statement issued by the committee, which, according to the New York Times, argued that Putin's decision brought stability to the region.

The committee appeared to overlook the numerous human-rights abuses carried out during the massive military assault, which Russian officials called an "antiterrorist operation." We're talking about the rape, torture and murder of defenseless civilians.

In 2000, then-U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright denounced the viciousness of Russian military campaign to the United Nations Commissions on Human Rights.

"We cannot ignore the fact that thousands of Chechen civilians have died, and more than 200,000 have been driven from their homes," she said. "Together with other delegations, we have expressed our alarm at the persistent, credible reports of human rights violations by Russian forces in Chechnya."

Would Confucius even approve? We'll never know, of course. But there's a statuette of the ancient Chinese thinker waiting for Putin.

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Susan Hogan is a Star Tribune editorial writer.


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