Political analyst on Kyiv visit: They wanted to show that they do not recognize Russian dominance

Janez Janša, Mateusz Morawiecki, Jarosław Kaczyński and Petr Fiala

The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovenia travelled to Kyiv on March 15 in an "unequivocal" show of support for Ukraine as Russia continues its assault on the country. They were the first leaders to visit the besieged city and hold face-to-face talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky since the start of the Russian invasion. I asked political analyst Jiří Pehe about the significance of this visit.

Jiří Pehe | Photo: Kateřina Cibulka,  Czech Radio

“I think it was an important symbolic gesture. We still do not know exactly what was promised , whether it was just a diplomatic visit showing support for Ukraine or whether the Central European leaders promised something concrete, such as deliveries of arms. But, certainly it has significantly boosted the morale here in Central Europe simply because it shows that these countries have leaders who care - in this huge international crisis.”

Similar visits by defense ministers to military bases in countries where there is a war raging are kept strictly under wraps and only reported on when they are over. Why was information about this visit released well ahead, with details such as that they will be travelling by train, which added to the risk. Was that a signal to the world?

War in Ukraine | Photo: Ľubomír Smatana,  Czech Radio

“I think the most plausible explanation about why this visit was not kept secret is that these politicians wanted to demonstrate that despite the fact that Ukraine is under attack from Russia they still have the right to go there and visit and not behave in a way that would suggest they recognize Russian dominance. So, yes, they took a huge risk in some ways, but I think that Russia came to understand that it should not attack these politicians in any way and should simply recognize them as visiting foreign top officials.”

How do you interpret the make-up, the composition of this delegation? And, is it maybe a signal from the post-communist countries, who have direct experience with Russian aggression, that they want stronger support for Ukraine – such as EU candidate status?

Viktor Orbán | Photo:  European People's Party,  Flickr,  CC BY 2.0

“I think that this visit was also a signal to the EU and we will learn later what was promised or suggested. What is also important is the composition of this group. It would have made sense if the delegation had been one of Visegrad leaders, but obviously the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, was left out and he opted not to go and also the Slovak prime minister was not there. So I think that will be the subject of many different interpretations and maybe we will learn more eventually from the Czech prime minister about why this group was composed the way it was.”