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Czech President Milos Zeman has remained silent over allegations of Russian involvement in an explosion on Czech soil. — Reuters pic
Czech President Milos Zeman has remained silent over allegations of Russian involvement in an explosion on Czech soil. — Reuters pic

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PRAGUE, April 20 —The Czech Republic’s pro-Moscow president became the target of jokes as well as activist criticism today over his silence on his country’s diplomatic rift with Russia.

The two countries have expelled dozens of diplomats in a tit-for-tat move after Czech intelligence alleged Russian secret services had orchestrated a 2014 explosion in a Czech ammunition depot which killed two people.

Czech ministers announcing the expulsion of 18 Russian diplomats on Saturday said President Milos Zeman was in the loop and approved the move.

Zeman himself, who fosters close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, has said he will only react to the events in a televised interview on Sunday.

On Monday night, activists projected a large blue sign saying “High Treason” on Prague Castle, the Czech president’s seat.

“As the Czech president, Milos Zeman has been employing two alternating types of behaviour—inactivity and high treason. In recent hours, he has skillfully combined them,” the “Let’s Stop High Treason” group said in a statement circulating on social networks.

High treason can lead to the president’s dismissal under the Czech constitution.

Zeman, a 76-year-old veteran leftwinger and an ex-Communist, has recently lobbied in favour of Russia’s state atomic agency Rosatom in a tender to build a new unit at a Czech nuclear plant.

He has also promoted the purchase of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19 and asked Putin personally to provide supplies.

But following the diplomatic rift, the Czech government decided to rule Rosatom out of the tender on Monday and to stop contemplating buying Sputnik V.

Jokes targeting the president have meanwhile flooded the internet, with one saying Zeman was waiting to have his opinion translated from Russian.

“Zeman has apologised for destroying Russian explosives,” reads another depicting Zeman and Putin shaking hands.

Zeman has also been criticised over his silence at a time when support pours in from foreign leaders.

Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said the sign on the Prague Castle was “shameful”, adding that Czech opposition was “spreading hatred”. — AFP


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