Social Democrat leader suggests referendum could resolve Konev statue dispute

The dispute over whether the controversial statue of Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev should remain in its place should be settled by the inhabitants of Prague 6 where it is located, Social Democrat leader Jan Hamáček said in a TV debate on Sunday. Mr. Hamáček said the dispute could be resolved in a local referendum.

The fate of the statue has caused a rift between Prague and Moscow after it was repeatedly vandalized with red paint and the mayor of Prague 6, Ondřej Kolar, said it would be better to remove it altogether, ideally to the grounds of the Russian embassy.

Speaking to Russian journalists, Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky compared Mr. Kolar to a leader of the regional branch of the Nazi party NSDAP.

The words provoked an angry response from Prague with Civic Democrat leader Petr Fiala saying the Czech foreign minister should summon the Russian ambassador to demand an explanation.

Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček said he regretted the fact that the discussion surrounding the Konev statue has crossed the bounds of a rational debate. “I do not consider the statement of the Russian culture minister appropriate. I think an apology would help calm the situation, "Petříček said in a text message to the ctk news agency.