Prague, Czech Republic – Ex-Czech President Václav Klaus declared he didn’t see any reason to give up the Medal of Pushkin he received from the hands of Vladimir Putin in 2007.
Often criticized at home for his pro-Russian views and close relationship with the Kremlin, Klaus told local outlet Lidovky.cz that he did not condone “cheap Russophobia” and would not return the medal he received fifteen years ago when he was president.
He added that he had been awarded “a Pushkin medal, not a Putin medal”, and noted that the tradition was created by Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin.
Several recipients of the prestigious Russian award – including Slovak writer Ján Štrasser – have returned the medal following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly one month ago.
Created in 1999 and revamped in 2010, the Medal of Pushkin is a state decoration awarded to Russians and foreigners for their achievements in the arts, culture, education, humanities, and literature, and is named after the great 19th-century Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.
Prime Minister and then President of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus was a central figure of Czech politics in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
He has since retired from politics but remains an outspoken and controversial voice in today’s public debates.
In 2019, comments he made appearing to justify Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support to separatists in eastern Ukraine sparked the anger of government officials in Kyiv.
In blog posts published since 2014, he also regularly blames the United States and the EU for trying “to turn Russia into a ‘bogey man’”, and argues that “the first and foremost contribution to the current dramatic situation [in Ukraine] is the obvious political, economic and social failure of Ukraine as an independent state.”
In a statement released on the first day of the invasion, Klaus and his colleagues from the Václav Klaus Institute did however condemn as “unacceptable” Moscow’s attack against Ukraine.
“We are saddened by the human misery, pain and suffering caused by the violent intrusion of the Russian army into Ukrainian territory,” the text reads.