Russia-backed separatists from Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region attempted to establish an official representation in the Czech Republic on Thursday, opening a mock consulate in Ostrava which was described as the "the first official representation in the EU" of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. The move elicited a sharp response from the Czech Foreign Ministry which said it does not recognize the Donetsk People’s Republic and will ask a court to outlaw the grouping that established the centre.
The opening of the Donetsk mock consulate in the Czech Republic’s third largest city attracted a few dozen reporters and a group of protesters who stood out in the street holding up banners reading “Russian aggression” and “Moscow-orchestrated theatre”. Inside, the opening ceremony appeared to be almost entirely in the hands of one woman Nela Lisková, a member of the xenophobic National Militia movement, who proclaimed herself “honorary consul” of the Donetsk People’s Republic in the Czech Republic.
“We want to aid and coordinate communication between the Donetsk Peoples Republic and the Czech Republic. We will cooperate in the sphere of information exchange, culture, science and other areas."
Although the flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic fluttered from the two-story building there did not appear to be an official Donetsk representative at the ceremony, which Lisková said was due to the “difficult political situation.”
She explained her own involvement in the representation centre, saying she had visited Donetsk several times in the past and had established bilateral relations with the government. A series of negotiations reportedly led to the idea of strengthening mutual ties between Donetsk and the Czech Republic.
The move was sharply rejected both by the Ukrainian Embassy in Prague and the Czech Foreign Ministry. Ministry spokeswoman Michaela Lagronová:
“The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic cannot have any kind of diplomatic mission or consular post in the Czech Republic because this entity is not a state and the Czech Republic does not recognize it as a state.”
I understand you will take steps to try and get the centre closed?
“Yes, first of all, we sent a letter to Ms Lisková urging her to immediately cease using the title “honorary consul” and we plan to ask the regional court in Ostrava to cancel the registration of this centre.”
So what is its status now?
The “people’s republics” in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions separated from Ukraine last year. They have their own constitutions approved by their self-proclaimed parliaments. Until now they have only been recognized as independent states by South Ossetia, itself a partially recognized break-away republic.