Czech president appears undaunted by criticism of his pro-Russian stance on Ukraine conflict
Czech President Miloš Zeman has invited the top representatives from four of the Allied Powers that won World War II, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, to Prague in January, his spokesman Jiří Ovčáček confirmed today, following earlier reports from the public broadcaster Czech Radio (ČRo).
Ovčáček said Zeman invited his Russian counterpart to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp in Oświęcim (Auschwitz), Poland, Jan. 27.
He further said the Presidential Office does not know yet whether presidents Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, François Hollande or Prime Minister David Cameron will agree to take part in the event.
ČRo said the Kremlin has confirmed receipt of the invitation but will deal with it later.
“It is an international remembrance of the Holocaust. In the Czech Republic, the event will be organized by leading Jewish organizations. Logically, the president of the Czech Republic is the one who invites the heads of the World War II victorious powers,” Ovčáček said.
The Czech Federation of Jewish Communities said the event is organized by the European Jewish Congress.
The liberation of Auschwitz will be also marked on the site of the former extermination camp in Poland, in which more than 1 million people, most of them Jews, died during the war.
President Vladimir Putin has visited the Czech Republic once before, in March 2006, during his second term as president of Russia. It had been the first visit by a Russian head of state since Boris Yeltsin visited Prague in 1993, an occasion marked by an admission by the then–Russian president (who passed away in April 2007) that the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia had been “an act of aggression.” Putin himself called the events “a tragedy” and said the Russians bore a “moral responsibility” for their acts, although he made it clear there was no “legal responsibility.”
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who served 2008–12, between Putin’s second and third terms, visited Prague twice: in 2010 to sign the much touted nuclear arms reduction treaty, New START, with President Obama, and again in 2011 to have talks with then–Czech President Václav Klaus.