Czech president Zeman invited Putin to Prague many weeks ago

Petr Jemelka Petr Jemelka
26. 11. 2014 16:35
Ceremonies linked to the anniversary of the Auschwitz concentration camp’s liberation are turned into a political event every five years. This year, Poland refused to organize the political part.
Foto: Ludvík Hradilek

The idea to invite Russian president Vladimir Putin to the Czech Republic has been born much earlier than the Kremlin boss started to meddle in the Ukrainian crisis.

The news that the Czech president Miloš Zeman had invited Putin, together with other representatives of the Allied powers, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation has roused public discontent. Aktuálně.cz daily has found out that the invitation had been a result of many months of negotiations between the Europen Jewish Congress (EJC) and the presidential office.

The EJC started to prepare the commemorative and political part of the ceremonies on 27th January 2014. In Ukraine, the protest against the Janukovych government on the Maidan square has begun on 19th January. Russia has been accused of meddling in the crisis at the end of February and at the beginning of March.

The commemorative ceremonies linked to the anniversary of the Auschwitz concentration camp’s liberation are turned into a political event every five years. This year, Poland refused to organize the political part of the ceremonies.

Officially, the Poles said that it is the last occasion for the survivors to meet, but the sources of Aktuálně.cz admitted that Warsow didn’t want to have Putin at the ceremonies.

First, the EJC has proposed to organize the commemorations in Brussels, but in the Belgian capital, there is no proper place for such an event. The second choice was Terezin. It is not far away from Auschwitz and there were many Jews being transferred from Terezin to the concentration camp in Poland during the WWII. From this reason, the EJC contacted the head of the Czech presidential office‘s foreign department Hynek Kmoníček at the turn of February and March.

„The EJC wanted to organize a meeting of 50 presidents, prime ministers and parliamentary speakers,“ Czech Federation of Jewish communities‘ head Tomáš Kraus said to Aktuálně.cz. „The presidential office agreed, but it had some doubts about being able to organize such a large event.“

In Ukraine, the situation on Maidan has worsened. On 18th February, the police units Berkut started a massive operation against the demonstrators resulting in dozens of people dead and hundreds injured. On 12th March, the OSCE observers confirmed that there are men in green uniforms without insignia on the Crimea.

The final agreement between the presidential office and the EJC specified that Prague would invite the representatives of 47 countries which signed the so-called Terezin declaration in 2009.

The speakers of both the Czech Chamber of deputies and the Senate, Jan Hamáček and Milan Štěch, then have sent the official invitation to their 47 counterparts.

The Czech prime minister‘s office has subsequently sent the invitations to ten prime ministers, under other to the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanjahu. Zeman did the same. He invited the American president Barack Obama, the French president Francois Hollande, the British prime minister David Cameron, the Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. The Czech president invited the heads of the Visegrad countries and the Israeli resident as well.

Presidential office‘s speaker Jiří Ovčáček published the information about Putin’s invitation to Prague in November, at a wrong time, as the Czech media started a campaign against Zeman because of his vulgar language in a public radio interview and his controversial talk on Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.


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