Czech Foreign Affairs minister responds: ‘We will not control our citizens’ activities’
Prague, March 14 (ČTK) — In a press release on its webpage, the Russian Embassy condemned Tuesday’s posting of a huge billboard with a caricature of Russian President Vladimir Putin on the town hall in Liberec, north Bohemia.
The billboard was posted by the Dekomunizace (Decommunisation) civic association with the consent of the city’s leaders, in protest against the steps taken by Russia in Crimea, and it depicts Putin with Hitler’s moustache and decorations with Communist and Nazi symbols.
The protest has drawn great interest with the locals, and the police have received several criminal complaints.
The canvas hangs right above a monument to those who died in Liberec when Soviet tanks occupied the country in 1968 to crush the Prague Spring reform movement.
The embassy called the event disrespectful and absolutely unacceptable as it threatened Czech-Russian relations.
Czech Foreign Affairs Minister Lubomír Zaorálek (Social Democrats, ČSSD) voiced understanding for Czechs’ fears of Russia over its policy in Ukraine and called on Russian diplomacy to start talks on ending the crisis in Crimea.
“We consider such events absolutely unacceptable, irrespective of the motives cited by their organizers,” the Russian Embassy said. ”Emotions and rash judgments are a bad basis for the building of relations between Russia and the Czech Republic.”
Zaorálek told the Czech News Agency today that “We are unable to and we will not control our citizens’ activities in this respect.”
“I can understand that citizens of this country are afraid of what is going on,” he said. “Diplomatic talks have been frozen and at the moment they do not seem to be moving forward. The situation is dangerous.”
“I can understand that this is a source of concern and various forms of disagreement in the public,” Zaorálek said.
The situation would be best calmed if Russia returned to the negotiating table and if a diplomatic solution were found to the tension in Crimea, now controlled by the Russian armed forces, while the Russian population is preparing a referendum on Crimea’s joining Russia Sunday, he added.
Both Kiev and the West have refused to recognize the referendum beforehand.
More pictures of the billboard can be found on the website of the Liberec Town Hall.