The University of Hamburg plans to bestow an honorary doctorate on Russian President Vladimir Putin. But dozens of German academics have protested that he is an unworthy recipient.
I want one just like yours, Gerhard
The honor for Putin would almost be like returning a favor: German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of St. Petersburg in April 2003.
But more than 50 professors at the University of Hamburg have so far signed a letter opposing distinguishing Putin with the doctorate.
"Russia is increasingly turning into an autocratic state" under Putin, reads the petition, which was initiated by political science professor Michael Greven. The academics slammed the Russian leader for his handling of the crisis in Chechnya and the suppression of the independent media in Russia.
Protests against the genocide in Chechnya accompanied Putin's visit to Berlin in February 2003.
They also wrote that Putin had not made any "outstanding scientific achievement" to warrant the university's economics department awarding him the degree in a ceremony set to take place Sept. 10.
Resistance has also come from Hamburg politicians. Awarding the doctorate to Putin would strengthen "old functionaries and oligarchs" in Russian business, said Jutta Blankau, the deputy leader of Hamburg's Social Democrats. She added that the decision to honor Putting was "crazy." But the university confirmed again on Wednesday that it still planned to honor Putin with the doctorate and was waiting to hear whether the president would attend the ceremony.