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Russia20 October 2006

French authorities urged to strip Putin of Legion of Honour

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Reporters Without Borders today asked the French government to strip Russian leader Vladimir Putin of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour that President Chirac awarded him just one month ago, on 22 September. The request was addressed to the Council of State and to Chirac, as Grand Master of the Order of the Legion of Honour.

“The Legion of Honour is France’s highest award and the Grand Cross is the highest rank within the order,” the press freedom organisation said. “We think Vladimir Putin is not worthy of this decoration and for this reason we have asked President Chirac and the Council of State to withdraw it.”

Reporters Without Borders continued: “It beggars belief that Putin has been given one of the greatest honours France can bestow on a person. A total of 21 journalists have been murdered in Russia with almost total impunity since he became president. Chechnya is black hole for news coverage. Putin waited 48 hours before making any comment about the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, one of the few journalists to cover the Chechen conflict, and then he chose to say ‘her impact on Russian political life was minimal’.”

The organisation added: “The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Russia twice, in February 2005 and on 12 October 2006, for its actions in Chechnya. It is outrageous to say Putin has rendered service to causes that France defends. We do not recognise France’s fundamental values in Putin’s discourse - when he says, for example, that he wants to wipe out Chechen terrorists in the shit-house, or when he describes the independent press as means of mass disinformation and tools for combatting the state, or when he tells a French journalist who asks him about Chechnya to come and get circumcised in Moscow so nothing grows back.”

Acclaimed internationally for her courage and professionalism as a journalist, Politkovskaya was gunned down in her central Moscow apartment building on 7 October. Aged 48, she had worked for the biweekly Novaya Gazeta since 1999. She was supposed to have handed in an article, with photos, about torture in Chechnya for the 9 October issue. It never arrived at the newspaper. In her last book, “Russia according to Putin,” published this year in France, she not only criticised atrocities in Chechnya but also corruption and human rights violations in Russia.

Download a segment of the video of the ceremony at which Putin received the Legion of Honour from Chirac. The audio commentary is from the “Arrêt sur image” programme broadcast by the French TV station France 5.

Windows Media - 1.6 Mb
Legion of Honour Ceremony

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