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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Obama's Peace Prize Greeted Skeptically in Russia

ReutersU.S. President Barack Obama commenting on winning the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize while delivering a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday.

U.S. President Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, just nine months into his first term in office, eliciting mixed reactions from Russian officials.

The Nobel Committee will present the prize to Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" and for his "vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons," the committee said in a statement.

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the statement said.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said after speaking with Obama that he would fly to Oslo to accept the award. It is handed out every year on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death in 1896 of the prize's founder, Alfred Nobel.

"I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel committee," Obama told reporters in the White House's Rose Garden. "I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations."

Neither the Kremlin nor the White House released any comment on the award as of 10:00 p.m. Friday.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin did, however, congratulate his Norwegian counterpart, Stoltenberg, on his appointment to the post and sent a welcome note to participants at the Abkhaz Business Forum in Sukhumi. Both he and President Dmitry Medvedev congratulated Jacques Roggeon his re-election as president of the International Olympic Committee.

Lower-ranking Russian politicians were quicker to weigh in, expressing everything from cautious congratulations to frustration about Obama winning the prize. They were virtually united in the opinion that the award went to the U.S. president as a downpayment on his future actions to reinforce global peace rather than for his accomplishments so far.

Many of them noted Europe's disappointment with the policies of Obama's predecessor, George Bush, and hope that the new White House would take a more peaceful approach to its foreign policy.

Konstantin Kosachyov, a United Russia deputy who leads the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, called choosing Obama "rather an acknowledgment of the rightness of his intentions than certain results" and said it was "a reaction to the positive turn" in the U.S. foreign policy, Interfax reported Friday.

His counterpart in the Federation Council, Senator Mikhail Margelov of United Russia, called the award "a credit" that Obama would have to "work out till the end of his political career," Interfax reported.

Margelov said the Bush administration's policies were a source of "severe disappointment" in Europe, which explained why Obama's rhetoric was so welcomed by the European community.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said he saw no real results of Obama's "verbally peaceful" policies.

"It's an advance of sorts, and shows Europe's desire to support the U.S. president in a time when his rating at home is starting to fall," Zyuganov said in comments posted on his party's web site. "It's also a sort of warning to the U.S. president not to start a war against Iran."

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, was relatively restrained in his remarks, saying it was a mistake to award someone the price for making "peaceful statements," but that he was the "dove of peace compared to George Bush," Interfax reported.

But he also criticized the Nobel Committee for awarding the prize to a president and not a public activist, saying it was the duty of any president to try to preserve stability and prevent war. "You can even see a certain amount of brown-nosing," he said.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, winner of the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize, posted a congratulatory letter to Obama on his foundation's web site.

"Your efforts have helped to bring about a significant change in the international climate," he said in the letter.

Last year's Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to former Finnish President Martti Achtisaari, who secured Kosovo's independence from Serbia, which prompted an angry reaction from senior Russian officials, who accused the Nobel Committee of making politicized decisions.

Most European leaders said they approved of the committee's decision.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he felt "great joy" about the fact. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent a private congratulatory letter to Obama and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said his government applauded the news.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Obama.

Former Polish President Lech Walesa, who led the pro-democracy Solidarity trade union that toppled communism, said it was too early, Reuters reported. "So soon? This is too soon. He has not yet made a real input. He is proposing, he is starting, but he still has to do it all," Walesa, who won the prize in 1983, told reporters.