Lipavský backs sanctions to rein in Russia over Ukraine

Russian soldiers attend a military exercising at the Golovenki training ground in the Moscow region

Despite increasing fears of a Russian attack, the Czech Republic is not for now withdrawing diplomats home from Ukraine. But the Czech foreign minister, Jan Lipavský, says the country continues to back tough sanctions as the most effective means of reining in Moscow.

The United States and Great Britain have withdrawn family members of their diplomatic staff from Ukraine amid growing fears that Russia is preparing to invade the country.

The Czech Republic, however, is following the approach of the European Union, leaving dependants at their diplomatic missions in Ukraine for the present.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský spoke to journalists after an emergency meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

“On the basis of discussions today at the Crisis Staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we are not issuing any order for the evacuation of staff at our diplomatic offices. Our assessment was that the situation had not yet reached such a point.”

Jan Lipavský | Photo: Ondřej Deml,  ČTK

The Czech Republic has an embassy in Kiev and a general consulate in Lviv and over 100 people would be concerned if staff and family members were brought home.

However, many Czechs based in Ukraine could also require assistance, the Czech foreign policy chief said.

In the meantime, Mr. Lipavský said that the situation could deteriorate suddenly and called on citizens of his country to refrain from visiting border areas in the east and north of Ukraine.

Mr. Lipavský also appealed to Czechs visiting Ukraine or resident there to register in his ministry’s special extreme situations database, known as Drozd.

Speaking more generally, the minister said that all attempts on the part of the EU and NATO to de-escalate tensions caused by Russia had so far proved fruitless.

Mr. Lipavský told Czech Television that he had been advocating for some time for sanctions against Russia as the most effective response to its aggression.

He said on the Interview programme that international sanctions had proven effective after Russia invaded Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014.

Photo: ČTK/AP/Uncredited

“Sanctions are force. That’s why Putin listens to them. This equation is pretty simple. It’s a whole range of measures, from diplomatic talks to activities within NATO, where military capacity is boosted. It also includes preparedness at the diplomatic level and imposing economic sanctions.”

However, Mr. Lipavský said the concrete form of possible sanctions was still under discussion.

A day after talks between EU foreign ministers and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, he praised Washington’s approach to the crisis.

“There have been a series of briefings by the US where European states are informed about various Russian demands… I took part in a call between EU foreign ministers and our American counterpart yesterday and I have to say that, though there are various views of the US around Europe, I would describe it as a ‘Euro-Atlantic idyll’ – which is a sign that the situation is really serious.”