Zeman won’t attend May 9 military parade in Moscow

Instead the Czech president will lay a wreath to commemorate the war dead

Prague, April 10 (ČTK) — President Miloš Zeman will not attend the military parade during the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Victory in Moscow on May 9 and he will honor the World War II victims by laying a wreath during the ceremony, presidential spokesman Jiří Ovčáček told journalists today.

When the parade is held, he will meet Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, Ovčáček said.

This is Zeman’s sovereign and independent decision that was not connected with the criticism of his trip to Russia, he added.

Zeman and Fico agreed on their bilateral meeting on Thursday, Ovčáček said.

However, Fico neither confirmed, nor ruled out the meeting today.

The Slovak Government Office did not confirm the meeting and Fico reacted similarly according to server.

“I have repeatedly said and I can do so once more that I will find the most suitable way of honoring the victims of World War II. My program on May 9 will be submitted to all who will be interested in it, including the media, in time,” Fico said.

Slovak President Andrej Kiska said previously he will not go to Moscow.

Within the celebrations of Victory, Zeman will at first go to Poland on May 7, he added.

At the invitation of Polish President Bronisław Komorowski, he will see Westerplatte, the peninsula near Gdansk where World War II started by Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Ovčáček said.

On May 8, the Czech national holiday, Zeman will take part in the traditional commemorative act at the Prague Vítkov Hill and he will name new generals at Prague Castle, the seat of presidency, he added.

In the evening of May 8, Zeman will fly to Moscow and on the following day, he will honor the Red Army war dead, Ovčáček said.

He said the Moscow meeting with Fico was evidence of the two countries’ excellent relations and a symbolic reference to the Red Army having liberated both Czechs and Slovaks in 1945, he added.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, ČSSD) said he had welcomed Zeman’s decision.

Thanks to it, the government is likely to approve the trip. On Wednesday, the government postponed the decision as it was not yet clear whether Zeman would attend the military parade.

“I think that Zeman’s attitude now enables the coalition partners, too, to support his trip to Moscow at the government meeting next Wednesday,” Sobotka said.

TOP 09 deputy chairman Miroslav Kalousek told the Czech News Agency he welcomed Zeman’s step.

Miroslava Němcová (Civic Democrats, ODS), former Chamber of Deputies chairwoman, echoed Kalousek’s opinion. But she said she still disagrees with Zeman’s trip to Russia.

According to Němcová the meeting with Fico is nothing but a pretext.

“Zeman remains on the list of May 9 guests of Vladimir Putin,” Němcová said.

Pavel Bělobrádek, Christian Democrat (KDU-ČSL) leader and deputy prime minister, wrote on Twitter that Zeman’s decision is “correct and wise.”

Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said today Zeman’s decision is a manifestation of an effort to reach a compromise with the government.

Zeman informed Zaorálek about his decision and his Moscow program at a meeting this afternoon.

Zeman’s trip to Moscow came under criticism because he is to take part in the celebration alongside representatives of “totalitarian murderous regimes” such as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Most Western leaders boycott the solemn act over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Ukraine.

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