Addressing the Council of Europe in Strasbourg last week, the president of the Czech Republic legitimised Russia’s annexation of Crimea by calling it a “fait accompli”. At home, the Senate, the upper house of parliament said this position is at odds with international law.
A resolution tabled by senator Jiri Ruzicka to express the view that President Milos Zeman is harming the interests of the Czech Republic was supported by 38 of the 47 senators present.
As reported by the Czech News Agency (CTK), the senate expressed disagreement with Zeman’s pro-Russian statements on the Crimea annexation.
“By his statements, the president of the republic legitimises the aggression that is at variance with international law,” said the senate.
Only three members of the senator group of the Party of Citizens’ Rights (SPO), founded by Zeman’s fans, and the Communists (KSCM) voted against it and six senators abstained from the vote.
According to the head of the SPO group, Jan Veleba, the current leadership turned the senate into an instrument of political struggle against Zeman.
The coalition government of the Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) rejected Zeman’s pro-Russian statements.
According to the Associated Press (AP), Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka responded by saying that Zeman’s speech “was in sharp contradiction of our foreign policy and the president had no mandate to do it.” He said that the sanctions could be lifted only after Russia honoured a 2015 peace deal.
Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek and some other politicians also rejected Zeman’s comments.
In Ukraine, activists demonstrated outside Prague’s embassy in Kyiv on October 12. They brought a goat with them to protest Zeman’s controversial statement.
In related news Radio Praha noted that Zeman had also recommended an alternative to sanctions against Russia.
“If you wish to increase the popularity of a leader –and now I am not speaking only about Mr. Putin – then apply sanctions and blockades,” he said. “Because psychologically there is the myth of the ‘surrounded fortress’. A surrounded fortress needs a strong leader and Putin’s popularity is growing all the time. Now Mr. Putin has 80% public support and I am sure that a very substantial part of this popularity has been provoked by the sanctions alone.”