Prague, Czech Republic – Czech President Milos Zeman, known for his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, has criticized Moscow for protesting against Prague’s decision to mark the 1968 Soviet-led invasion with a national remembrance day.
Moscow ‘disappointed’ with Czech national memorial day
On December 18, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed its “big disappointment” and claimed that the bill, making August 21st a national remembrance day in honour of the victims of the crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968, would “hardly contribute to successful bilateral cooperation”.
Earlier this month, the Czech Parliament had almost unanimously approved an amendment to the legislation on public holidays in order to make August 21st a national memorial day to honour the memory of the victims of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Czechoslovakia.
Lawmakers from the Communist Party were the only ones to oppose the bill, signed into law by Milos Zeman on December 13.
Zeman blasts Russia’s ‘insolence’ over 1968 remembrance
Although known for his pro-Russian views, President Zeman slammed Russian authorities’ comments as “absolute insolence” and said, during an interview published last week, that he will reconsider his planned visit to Moscow next year.
“Some time ago, I accepted President Putin’s invitation to the 75th anniversary of the World War II victory, and now I’m considering whether to go at all”, he said. “Or, what I’ll most likely do, go there and say to the Russians: ‘What if you turned the page and stopped recalling this anniversary?'”.
Since first being elected in 2013, Milos Zeman has attended Russia’s Victory Day celebrations, held every year on May 9, on a regular basis. The Czech head of state had sparked outrage, in 2015, when he was one of the only EU leaders to make the trip, boycotted by most Western countries as a sign of protest against Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and its support to separatists in eastern Ukraine.
In 2018, President Zeman also drew controversy after refusing to give a speech to mark the 50th anniversary of the repression of the Prague Spring, a vast movement of liberalization crushed by the invasion of troops from the Warsaw Pact during the night of the 20th-21st of August, 1968. Nearly 150 people are estimated to have died as a direct result of the invasion and occupation.