Czech PM discusses further steps against Russia with UK and V4 leaders

Prime ministers from the EU’s Visegrad Four bloc, including the Czech Republic’s Petr Fiala, met with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Ukraine. All parties agreed on a common approach to Russia’s aggression against its neighbour, as well as on the necessity to lower their countries’ energy dependence on Russia. Further sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s regime are also on the table.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and his Visegrad Four colleagues met with Boris Johnson in London on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing situation connected to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The talks, which mostly focused on joint V4-UK cooperation against Vladimir Putin’s regime, were very useful according to the Czech prime minister, who shared details of the meeting while visiting the Battle of Britain memorial to pay tribute to Czechoslovak WWII pilots later in the day.

“We found out that we share the same opinion on many things, whether it be the necessity to help Ukraine through all sorts of available means, or the need to consider applying further sanctions to Russia, including diplomatic isolation.

“We also spoke about a topic that is very important for the Czech Republic, namely lowering our dependence on Russian raw materials. This is a big challenge for Europe as well as for Great Britain, which wants to offer help in this effort.”

Petr Fiala,  Boris Johnson | Photo: Leon Neal,  ČTK/AP

On the issue of finding alternatives to Russian gas imports, Petr Fiala highlighted that this will be a long-term process which will include a search for new suppliers and investments into alternative technologies.

In a subsequent bilateral meeting, the Czech and British prime ministers also agreed on increased cyber security cooperation and the deepening of strategic ties.

For his part, Boris Johnson applauded Central European states "for their vital support to the Ukrainian people fleeing Putin’s abhorrent invasion and subjugation." Visegrad Four countries are currently taking the brunt of the Ukrainian refugee wave, especially Poland, which has already taken in over 1.2 million people. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands have sought sanctuary in the other V4 states.

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said on Tuesday that the Czech Republic could take in up to 250,000 Ukrainian refugees, after which it will be necessary to either agree an EU-wide refugee allocation programme or secure financial aid from the union on a similar blueprint that has been used with Syrian refugees housed in Greece. The topic is likely to be brought up when the Czech Prime Minister meets with members of the European Commission later this week.

While in London, V4 leaders also took the opportunity to exchange know-how on managing the crisis and prepare a common stance for the upcoming European Council summit in Paris where security and defence topics will be on the agenda. Mr Fiala said that the Visegrad Four countries are united in their hard stance towards Russian aggression.

“There first needs to be a consensus on this approach across the European Union. The Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia are countries which are calling for the hardest measures to be taken against Russia. We are also ready to support Ukraine with all of the resources that we possess.”

This was Petr Fiala’s first visit to the United Kingdom since he became prime minister late last year. Asked about his meeting with Boris Johnson, Mr Fiala said that both of them agreed on many aspects of the Ukraine crisis and had exchanged phone numbers to keep in touch more effectively.