Czech veterans group advised not to visit Ukraine's Odessa

Jan Gazdík Jan Gazdík, Ivan Eckhardt
4. 4. 2014 13:20
Czech veterans organization will visit Ukraine's Odessa next week to commemorate 70th anniversary of city's liberation from Nazi occupation. Ukraine's military museums head asks them to stay home
Czechoslovak Legionaries Association official Radim Chrast
Czechoslovak Legionaries Association official Radim Chrast | Foto: archiv Radima Chrásta

Prague, Odessa - Almost one hundred Czechs will visit the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa next week to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the city's liberation from Nazi rule by Soviet troops. The visit is organized by Czechoslovak Legionaries Association official Radim Chrast. The group will travel in two buses.

Some 180 Czechoslovak fighters from the Odessa resistance movement assisted in the 1944 liberation of the city.

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Because of the ongoing insecurity and political tensions in Ukraine, Chrast has been advised by his friends not to go. Even Czech ambassador to Ukraine Ivan Pucoch is against the idea. “I know Radim well, so I know that when he bites, he does not let go easily.” Chrast helped the embassy organize last year's reenactment of the Battle of Sokolovo and the liberation of Kiev. “This time, it is quite different. The current situation in Ukraine does not allow us to organize anything similar, so we canceled the planned reenactment of the Battle of Odessa,” said the ambassador.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry's military museums head Vladimir Taranec asked Chrast to stay home - for the sake of his own safety. Chrast declined, but promised that his group would not wear their military uniforms. This will make it less likely that the group's presence will be seen as a provocation, said Tatranec.

“Odessa is Russia's target”

The official says that the current situation in Odessa is tense. “Sport team buses we know nothing about are arriving there. There is an increasing number of provocations by Russia, which is creating discontent with the government in Kiev. Why? After it occupied Crimea, Moscow is now fixing its eyes on Odessa. It is its target now. So any action can be seen as a provocation,” said Taranec. He also advised the Czech group to carry Ukrainian flags.

Chrast himself, who visited Kiev in January this year during protests, does not consider the trip too risky.

The Czechoslovak Legionaries Association is a civic association of Czechoslovak and Czech veterans and their family members and supporters. It was founded in 1921 by members of the Czechoslovak Legions.

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