Prague, Czech Republic – Russian President Vladimir Putin declared he would like Czech counterpart Milos Zeman to attend the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow later this year, Radio Prague reported.
In his New Year’s greetings to Zeman, long considered one of his closest allies among European Union leaders, Vladimir Putin said that the Czech President’s presence in Moscow, on May 9, to attend the celebrations of the end of World War II, would symbolize “friendship and mutual respect between the two nations”.
The conciliatory message from the Kremlin’s strongman comes a few days after Milos Zeman slammed Russia for its “absolute insolence” in condemning the Czech Republic’s decision to memorialize August 21st as a national day of remembrance for the victims of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.
“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 in an interview published last week.
The Russian Foreign Ministry had previously issued a statement declaring that Prague’s decision to mark August 21st to honour the memory of the victims of the crushing of the Prague Spring would “hardly contribute to successful bilateral cooperation”.
Moscow’s reaction drew the ire of many politicians across the political spectrum, including Zeman, known for his pro-Russian views and close relationship with the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin.
In 2015, the Czech President caused controversy when he was one of the only EU leaders to attend Russia’s Victory Day celebrations, boycotted by most Western countries to protest against Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support to separatist groups in eastern Ukraine.