A little-known Russian peace academy that counts several parliamentarians, diplomats, and academicians among its members has nominated President Vladimir Putin for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, claiming that his efforts to turn the momentum for US military intervention in Syria into an international peace process qualifies him at least as much as Barack Obama, who won the prestigious award in 2009.
The Moscow-based International Academy of Spiritual Unity of Nations of the World which, according to its website, has been active in building bridges of friendship between Russia and the world for about 20 years, announced that it had filed the nomination with the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee at a Moscow press conference on Tuesday.
The president of the group, Georgy Trapeznikov, reached by telephone Thursday, said his organization is qualified to make the nomination under the rules stipulated by the Nobel Committee, and that their nomination of Mr. Putin is a serious effort to win recognition for the Russian leader's global advocacy of peace, national sovereignty, and international law.
"I have personally seen Putin's activity, to calm down hotheads in South Ossetia [during the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia] and to promote peace," says Mr. Trapeznikov.
"He himself goes to the hotspots and does his best to resolve problems by peaceful methods. They awarded Obama a peace prize before he'd done anything, whereas Putin has already done a lot to establish peace in the world. He corresponds to all the requirements of the Nobel Prize Committee," he adds.
According to the Nobel Committee , a nomination can be made by any parliamentarian, government figure, academic or director of a peace or foreign policy institute. Trapeznikov points out that his group has well over a dozen qualified individuals on its board of directors, while he himself, as the head of a recognized peace institute, is also eligible to nominate.
Nominations for the 2014 prize opened in September, according to the Nobel Committee's website. The list will be reviewed and honed during the coming year, and the winner will be announced in October 2014.
Two Russians have won the prestigious award since its inception in 1901: Soviet dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov in 1975 and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990. As a past winner of the prize, Mr. Gorbachev would be eligible to submit a nomination in his own right. Though he has so far offered no comment about Putin's name being put forward, the former Soviet leader has been an increasingly harsh critic of his Kremlin successor, and seems unlikely to smile upon it.
The Nobel Committee has a policy of strict secrecy about nominations and its review process, but Trapeznikov insists that Putin has indeed been properly nominated.
According to its website, there has been an average of about 40 nominations for each Peace Prize awarded. Over the past century, prominent individuals who were nominated but passed over for the award included Mahatma Gandhi, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin.
Many in Russia's human rights community say they're horrified by the idea of Putin winning one.
"It's impossible to give the Peace Prize to a person who initiated two wars, in Chechnya and Georgia," says Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a veteran Russian human rights campaigner and friend of Andrei Sakharov, who has herself been nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize – the winner of which will be announced later this month.
"I understand that the recent peace proposal about Syria helped to avoid airstrikes against Syria, and this is all good. It's always better to talk than to shoot. But this does not launder the reputation of Putin, who is to blame for two wars. He definitely does not correspond to the requirements of the Nobel Committee," she says.
But Sergei Strokan, a foreign affairs columnist with the pro-business Moscow daily Kommersant, says that at the very least the nomination is a brilliant PR move on the part of Putin loyalists who want to improve the Kremlin leader's global image.
"It's aimed at showing Putin as a statesman, a peacemaker, and the adult-in-the-room when it comes to issues like the civil war in Syria," he says.
"And why not? If the crisis in Syria gets resolved, or even substantially moved forward as a result of his efforts, maybe he will deserve it. The very fact that US airstrikes have been replaced by political methods looks like a big plus for Putin already," he adds.