Czech government condemns Russia’s intrusion into Ukraine

Russian soldiers in Perevalne, Ukraine, March 2, 2014, photo: CTK

The Czech government has voiced strong condemnation of Russia’s intrusion into Ukraine calling military action on the territory of a foreign state unsubstantiated and a breach of international law. Speaking after a meeting of the National Security Council on Sunday, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said Russia’s actions in Crimea were a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and the Czech Republic was ready to support a clear signal from the EU that this was unacceptable.

Russian soldiers in Perevalne,  Ukraine,  March 2,  2014,  photo: CTK
Echoes of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia rippled through the country as Czechs watched the unravelling crisis in Crimea over the weekend. Words of condemnation came both from Prague Castle and the Office of the Government. Ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek was given a strong mandate to support a clear signal from the EU that such actions are unacceptable. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka:

“What is happening in Crimea is a breach of international law and a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. We are in agreement that the only possible solution to this crisis is a diplomatic one and we are ready to support a strong and clear signal from the EU urging Moscow to desist from the use of military force and go back to the negotiating table.”

Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said Russia should be made to feel that such actions would not pass without consequences.

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“Military intervention on the territory of a foreign state is totally unacceptable. Moscow says it is defending the interests of its nationals, but if we were to accept that argument then its forces could invade any other country at any other time for the same reason. In such circumstances I do not see how we can negotiate an agreement on visa-free relations with Russia which it is so keen to have. If the presence of Russian nationals in any country presents such a threat I cannot imagine how we could support such an agreement.”

Foreign Minister Zaorálek summoned the Russian ambassador to Prague to the foreign ministry headquarters on Sunday to inform him of the country’s position.

Czech President Miloš Zeman also condemned the intervention in a written statement saying that while he understands the complexity of the situation stemming from the fact that Crimea, with its majority Russian population, was incorporated into Ukraine in 1954, the use of force was reminiscent of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. The president said he believed military action would create a divide that it would be hard to bridge over generations.

Lubomír Zaorálek,  photo: CTK
The Czech government which flew 28 Ukrainians, who were seriously wounded in the street clashes, for treatment to Prague last week said it was prepared to continue providing humanitarian aid to Kiev if needed and would be coordinating all its actions closely with the EU. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry advised Czech Nationals against travelling to eastern Ukraine, particularly to Crimea, until further notice. Those who are already there have been advised to leave the region as soon as possible.