Minister: Czech Republic pushed for tougher response to Russia
The Czech Republic tried to persuade its EU partners to block Russia from the SWIFT international payments system, the country’s foreign minister said on Friday. The Prague government is reportedly underwhelmed by the European Union’s hitherto response to the invasion of Ukraine and is undertaking steps of its own.
The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, called on Thursday for Russia to be blocked from the SWIFT international payments system.
This is seen as potentially the most damaging possible sanction that could be imposed on Russia following its attack on Ukraine.
However, the European Union has so far decided not to exclude Russia from SWIFT, via which it receives foreign currency, reportedly to the infuriation of the Kyiv government.
Speaking after a Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs Crisis Staff meeting on Friday morning, Minister Jan Lipavský said his government had lobbied unsuccessfully for this move among its EU partners during talks on Thursday.
“SWIFT isn’t the only possible solution. The sanctions are already very tough. The Czech Republic argued for SWIFT to be included in them. Informal talks are already going on about a third package of sanctions at European Union-level. But until the first package has been finalised there’s not much point in talking in detail about how other formats may look.”
Czech Television reported on Friday that two government parties, the Mayors and Pirates, were particularly disappointed by the European Union’s response so far to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mayors leader and Czech minister of the interior, Vít Rakušan, said at the Senate on Friday morning that his government would seek to take its own, “Czech” steps against the Russian Federation in parallel with the EU sanctions announced so far.
Mr. Rakušan said that this time there could be no “lukewarm” response, as had occurred when Russia annexed the Ukrainian province of Crimea in 2014. This only further whetted Putin’s power and territorial appetite, he said, referring to the Kremlin boss as a “dictator”.
The interior minister told senators that the Czech Republic expected around 5,000 Ukrainians to arrive within the first wave of refugees. He also said that the government planned to release CZK 1.5 billion to help people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.
In addition Prague earmarked CZK 300 million in humanitarian aid in response to the crisis.
The minister of labour, Marian Jurečka, said on Friday that if any Ukrainians based in the Czech Republic were called up to serve their country their jobs here would be held open for them.
The Czech Senate on Friday joined the chorus for tougher sanctions against Russia and said it and Belarus should be expelled from international organisations.
Senate speaker Miloš Vystrčil told a special session of the chamber that Ukraine was fighting for Prague and for all Europeans, calling Russia’s attack on the country barbarian and inhumane.
For his part Foreign Minister Lipavský said Putin would lose the war he had senselessly unleashed against Ukraine. He said the Kremlin had returned to the imperialist, expansionist policies of the Soviet Union.