President Zelensky in Prague: Now is the time for unity and courage

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is in Prague for talks with Czech top officials ahead of next week's NATO summit. He was received with military honours at Prague Castle shortly after 8 pm CET and went straight into a meeting with President Petr Pavel.

At a late-night press briefing following the talks, the Czech president said Ukraine could count on continued Czech support and solidarity, both in terms of military assistance in its counter-offensive and support for its ambition to join Western structures. Mr. Pavel said that Ukraine was fighting for what Czechia itself had striven for not so long ago – the right to freedom and to choose where it belonged. He said that not long ago, Czechia too had lobbied for support to be allowed to join the democratic fold of nations. "It is inconceivable that Russia should win this war, for that would be a defeat of the values that we share," President Pavel said.

He expressed admiration for the bravery of the Ukrainian people in defending their freedom and the determination and courage of their president, who was doing his best to win support for his country’s fast-track admission to NATO and the EU. Mr. Pavel said that while Ukraine could not count on an invitation to join NATO at the Vilnius summit (July 11-12), Prague would voice clear support for its goal and hopes to see accession talks started by the end of this year so that the country could join the alliance when the war ends.

The Czech president said that the Czech-Ukrainian talks were increasingly also about cooperation, noting that the reconstruction of Ukraine should be seen as an opportunity for Czech companies.

President Zelensky thanked the Czech president, government and the Czech people for their support of Ukraine, both material and moral, and for the high number of refugees the country has taken in. He said he realized that it would be difficult to win unanimous support for his country’s ambition, but emphasized that now was the time for unity and courage. He also warned against Russian disinformation and propaganda.

On Friday the Ukrainian leader is due to meet with Prime Minister Petr Fiala and the speakers of both houses of Parliament before flying to Turkey.