“Of course I feel co-responsibility” says Zeman over Russia stance

Miloš Zeman

President Zeman says that in the past he misjudged Russia but has now changed his view of the Kremlin. The Czech head of state said in an interview that Putin was destroying his own country with the war on Ukraine – and scoffed at suggestions he or close associates had served Moscow.  

Vladimir Putin | Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev,  ČTK/AP

A book published by the then retired Miloš Zeman in 2005 was entitled How I Made Mistakes in Politics.

Now Mr. Zeman – who for many years fostered warm relations with Russia and Vladimir Putin – has gone some way to admitting to another error of judgement.

Soon after Putin launched his war on Ukraine Mr. Zeman’s officials said he had felt “disappointed” and “deceived” by Russia.

On Sunday he made the following comment on CNN Prima News, reiterating his recent position on Moscow.

“Of course I feel co-responsibility, just like a number of German politicians – the German president has admitted to this, as have Wolfgang Schäuble and others – that they evaluated Russian policy poorly, because they were doing so on the basis of rational patterns.”

Mr. Zeman said Putin’s own people would ultimately pay for the war launched on February 24.

“A great deal of intelligence is not required to realise that the attack on Ukraine will destroy Russia. Literally destroy it. It will destroy it economically, politically, in terms of reputation and so on. There is no worse step, in the interests of Russia, than attacking Ukraine. But still it happened, because sometimes politicians act irrationally.”

Michael Romancov | Photo: Jana Přinosilová,  Czech Radio

But not everyone buys Mr. Zeman’s about-turn. Political geographer Michael Romancov told me recently he did not understand the president’s new stance.

“Even though I disliked basically everything he was doing and declaring about Russia, or the international arena in general, in the last couple of years, it was nevertheless to a certain degree coherent. Now he has turned 180 degrees over a very short period of time and is waving the flag of Ukraine, he’s waving the flag of democracy, so to speak. So today it is a Miloš Zeman whom I cannot trust.”

Mr. Romancov has also said that the time for the president to stop echoing the Kremlin’s views was after the invasion of Crimea in 2014.

Mr. Zeman told CNN Prima News that he did not care what people on social media and elsewhere thought of his volte face.

He was also asked about his close associate Martin Nejedlý, who worked for Lukoil and was photographed with a picture of Russia’s authoritarian leader on his mobile cover.

“That is such a tabloid argument. Do you think when somebody has Putin on the cover of their telephone – incidentally Putin has now been removed – that he is a Russian agent?... Journalists say I’m a Russian agent, a Chinese agent, even an Israeli agent. But I just make fun of that, because I don’t attach great significance to those people.”

Author: Ian Willoughby
run audio