Former president comes under fire, Ukrainian academic labels his words as ‘drivel addressed to fools’
Prague, July 14 (ČTK) — Ukrainian observers have criticized former Czech President Václav Klaus (2003–13) for sharing opinions with what they call the controversial pro-Russian American Institute in Ukraine (AIU), daily Hospodářské noviny (HN) writes today.
A round table debate on Ukraine took place in the Prague-seated Václav Klaus Institute last week, co-organized by the AIU, which presents itself as an independent nonprofit organization, HN writes.
Journalist Serhy Leshchenko pointed out that the AIU has operated in Ukraine for a long time and has always been linked with politicians promoting Ukraine’s alliance with Russia and campaigning against pro-Western inclinations, HN writes.
In addition, the AIU’s deputy director is James George Jatras, a foreign analyst of the U.S. Republicans, who stood up in defense of Slobodan Milošević before The Hague tribunal in 2004.
Jatras also heads the AIU’s sister organization American Council for Kosovo, which does not recognize an independent Kosovo, HN writes.
It was Jatras who in 2003 concluded contracts to provide PR services to Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s then–prime minister. Their cooperation continued one year later when the Orange Revolution was under way in Ukraine, the daily says.
The guests to the Prague round table debate included AIU chief Anthony T. Salvia, who, on that occasion, praised Vladimir Putin as the best Russian leader since 1911, the paper adds.
The Václav Klaus Institute says it had not known the opinions of the foreign participants in the debate, including the AIU representatives, beforehand.
“Their academic background indicated that the discussion could be erudite, unlike the superficial media distortions,” Petr Marcinka, from the Institute, told HN.
In keeping with Klaus’s longstanding pro-Russian orientation, the Prague debate was as expected.
Klaus spoke in favor of the division of Ukraine. Along with his aide Jiří Weigl, a former head of the presidential office, he criticized the “unilateral pro-Western propaganda,” the paper writes.
Some Ukrainian observers voiced indignation at Klaus’s siding with the AIU. Volodymyr Horbach, in his commentary on Gazeta.ua, described the AIU as a pro-Russian institute that publishes only selected information on Ukraine, which plays into the hands of Moscow, HN writes.
“Klaus’ reputation is poor. His appearance will have no influence on our situation or on Europe’s approach to Ukraine,” Horbach wrote.
The news server Den headlined its commentary on Klaus’ round table debate “A Victim to pro-Russian Propaganda.”
Kiev University Professor Mikhail Kirsenko labeled Klaus’s anti-Ukrainian statements as a display of “traditional Czech Russophilism” and “primitive and rude drivel addressed to fools.”
Disapproval has also been expressed by the Ukrainian Embassy in Prague.
“Unlike the present and former leaders of most countries of the world, Václav Klaus is not even ready to admit that the current crisis in eastern Ukraine is a result of a cynical aggression by the Moscow leadership, aimed to return Ukraine to Russia’s sphere of influence,” the embassy said.
It said the parallels Klaus drew between the situation in Ukraine and the 1992 split of Czechoslovakia are inappropriate.