Czech PM warns Europe could be step away from war

In a Sunday interview with Czech Television, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said he still believes a peaceful solution can be found to the Russian build up on the Ukrainian border. However, he also said that the likelihood of a Russian invasion has increased and could happen at any moment. In the face of this threat the prime minister praised EU and NATO unity in confronting the situation.

Mr Fiala said that the situation was getting increasingly serious by the day and that Europe could be a step away from war. Attempts at reaching a diplomatic solution with Russia have not borne fruit as of yet, Mr Fiala said, adding that despite this he still believes one can be found. Nevertheless, the West needs to be ready to accept the possibility that a solution will not be reached at the negotiating table.

His words were similar to those of other European leaders such as Boris Johnson following the Munich Security Conference, which took place at the weekend.

Western unity is key in persuading Russia not to commit an act of aggression, the Czech prime minister said, adding that, if it were to do so, it must be confronted with serious sanctions. He said he was impressed by the unity of all EU member states in finding a common approach to the situation.

Petr Fiala | Photo: Francois Walschaerts,  ČTK/AP

“The whole EU is united in this and that’s new. We know that in our recent history, the past decade, our positions may have differed slightly, for example due to different economic interests, or historic ones.

“We have a negative experience. Then there are the Baltic States, which are directly exposed to risk. These stances were varied, France and Germany sometimes had moments when they were cautious and more open to negotiating with Russia and enforcing lighter sanctions. Today, our stance is completely united and I don’t think that President Putin counted on that.”

Mr Fiala said that a wide array of sanctions is prepared if Russia were to attack. These vary in their severity based on the type of action that Russia may choose to conduct. Sanctions would differ in the event of a mass cyberattack compared to those in response of a military invasion, the prime minister said. However, none of them are cosmetic and would have an impact on Russia. He also stated that there is readiness within the EU to support those states who would be more impacted within the union.

On Sunday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Lipavský said that the Czech Republic will be sending further medical aid to Ukraine worth CZK 10 million. According to the prime minister, this could rise to CZK 100 million if the situation were to get worse.