He served as a KGB officer stationed in Dresden, former Communist East Germany, during the 1980s. Now Russian Prime Minster Vladimir Putin is being honored by the city, provoking criticism from human rights groups.
Putin's KGB past has sparked unease in Dresden
A human rights group criticized plans by a German cultural organization to present an award to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the eastern city of Dresden on Friday.
"He doesn't deserve to be honored," the German-based Society for Threatened Peoples said, blaming Putin for human rights violations by Russian troops in Chechnya.
During his time as president, the Russian leader was responsible for the deaths of around 80,000 men, women and children in the breakaway republic, the society said in a statement.
Order of Saxon Gratitude
Putin will be awarded the "Order of Saxon Gratitude" at a black-tie debutantes' ball at the Semper Opera House
Putin, who served as head of state from 1999 until becoming prime minister last year, was due to receive the "Order of Saxon Gratitude" for promoting cultural relations between Germany and Russia.
The honor was to be presented by the Semper Opera Ball Association in Dresden, where Putin served as Soviet KGB officer until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The Russian prime minister was due to receive the award after holding talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, where he was also paying a visit to the Green Week agricultural exhibition.
East German groups join the fray
Two former East German civil rights activists joined in the criticism of the plan to honor Putin.
Werner Schulz told the newspaper Leipziger Volkszeitung that shortly before the fall of the wall, Putin threatened to open fire on East German dissidents if they approached KGB headquarters in Dresden.
Heinz Eggert, a former interior minister in the state of Saxony, where Dresden is located, said that if it were not for the anti- communist uprising, Putin "would still be an anonymous KGB officer who wouldn't have the money to buy a ticket for the opera ball."