A German human rights group has withdrawn a prize issued to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after a wave of criticism and condemnation.

The German Quadriga Prize is handed out once a year to role models who are committed to enlightenment, commitment and welfare.

Named after the statue atop Berlin's Brandenberg Gate, the awarded is bestowed on the anniversary of German re-unification and is dedicated to all those whose courage tears down walls and whose commitment builds bridges.

Critics were aghast by the original award since Putin, a former KGB chief, is regarded as overseeing an oppressive regime in Russia.

A prior recipient of the award, the ex-Czech President Vaclav Havel was so appalled he vowed to return his own prize in protest.

A spokeswoman for Havel suggested the Quadriga panel were very wise to reconsider giving the award to Putin.

She further said that the award should honor those who devoted their lives to protection of human rights and freedoms and promoting democracy, citing, for example, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, Russian human rights campaigner Sergei Kovalov and Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was killed in 2006.

Another prior winner, Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, has already returned his award in disgust.

Markus Loening, Germany's human rights commissioner, said rewarding Putin was downright cynical and mocked the achievements of prior honorees like Mikhail Gorbachev and Havel.

It devalues the prize, he said.

In response to the imbroglio, a spokesman for Putin said the controversy will not negatively impact Russian-German relations ties and that Moscow will treat with respect any decision by this organization.

The organizers they retracted Putin's award with great regret, citing massive criticism in the media and the political world over their selection.

The growing pressure was becoming increasingly unsustainable and risked escalating further, the group said in a statement.

As such, no award will be given out this year.

Initially, the awards panel explained they chose Putin for his service to the dependability and stability of German-Russian relations.”