The presidents of Slovakia and Poland have defended the EU sanctions
against Russia as justified.
Speaking at a press briefing following a Visegrad Group summit of heads of state, Slovak President Andrej Kiska said the EU could not remain indifferent to the 2014 annexation of Crimea which was a blatant violation of international law and said he welcomed the fact that EU members had acted in unity in enforcing sanctions. Polish President Andrzej Duda also said the sanctions were fully justified.
Czech President Zeman, who is one of the most vocal opponents of the sanctions and who has repeatedly called for them to be lifted, made no comment, saying sanctions had not been on the agenda of the meeting. Hungarian President Janos Ader likewise refrained from commenting on the issue.
Having served as US secretary of state from 1997 to 2001, Madeleine Albright ranks as one of the most accomplished of all Czech-Americans. I got to speak to the Prague-born politician recently when she was special guest at the Reality Czech evening in New York, organised by the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association and the Václav Havel Library Foundation to mark the centenary of the founding of Czechoslovakia. Our conversation eventually turned to that landmark anniversary – but it began with Secretary Albright’s recently published book Fascism:
Czech politicians have welcomed the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, with Prime Minister Babiš calling it a breakthrough in bilateral relations that will open dialogue on many burning issues. However political analysts predict that the new relationship may bring trying times for Europe. Commentator Daniel Anýž says the two leaders clearly have a common interest in a weak European Union.
The Czech-Russian Discussion Forum, a new annual platform created by the two countries’ respective presidents, met for the first time on Thursday, in a Prague session closed to the public. The aim is to promote open discussion on a wide range of topics, including bilateral relations and chapters in their shared history. The Forum has, however, been derided by a number of Czech public figures as a potential propaganda tool for the Kremlin.
The Night Wolves, a Russian motorcycle club known for its staunch
nationalism and close ties to Vladimir Putin, is making several appearances
in the Czech Republic in connection with the end-of-war celebrations. They
attended a commemorative ceremony in Silesia on Friday and are expected to
return to the Czech Republic on Sunday.
The Russian bikers’ presence in the country is highly controversial. They claim they are paying homage to Red Army soldiers who died liberating Czechoslovakia, but critics see their rides as politically provocative and Russian propaganda.
Though long based in Wales, where he teaches at the Cardiff School of Law and Politics, Professor Jiří Přibáň is a regular commentator on politics in his native Czech Republic. Last week I discussed the rise of populism, the chances of a vote on leaving the EU and the outlook for Czech liberals with the sociologist and theorist of law and constitutionalism. But I first asked Jiří Přibáň how Andrej Babiš’s ANO had, in little over five years, succeeded in becoming the dominant force in Czech politics.
President Putin’s re-election for a fourth term in office has evoked mixed reactions in the Czech Republic, reflecting the different perceptions of Russia today. President Zeman, who is seen as a strong supporter of President Putin, presents Russia as a promising business partner, but many politicians and ordinary people in this country still see Russia as a threat. So is Russia under Putin a partner or a threat – that’s a question I put to Petr Kratochvíl, head of the Prague-based Institute of International Relations.
Dr. Sean Hanley is an expert on democracy and parties in the Czech Republic and is the author of The New Right in the New Europe: Czech transformation and right-wing politics. When we sat down last week at his office at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London, the conversation took in the demise of the Czech right since the book’s publication in 2007, the rise and rise of ANO and the immediate prospects for prime minister designate Andrej Babiš. But I first asked the political scientist what had led him to his
President Miloš Zeman met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Sochi,
beginning the official program of his five-day visit. The two met at Mr
Putin’s personal residence, Bocharov Ruchei, often the site of top
meetings during state visits.
According to the Czech News Agency, Mr Putin expressed appreciation for Mr Zeman’s interest in deepening economic cooperation between Russia and the Czech Republic, despite differences. On his trip, the Czech president is being accompanied by a business delegation representing more than 130 firms, looking for new opportunities for trade.
President Zeman expressed regret that it had not been possible for “technical, not ideological reasons” to transfer the reliquary bust for the skull of Saint Ludmila to go on display for two days in Russia; St Ludmila is revered in the Russian Orthodox Church.