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Czech President to Attend Moscow Parade Out of Gratitude to Soviet Army

© AP Photo / Thibault CamusCzech Republic President Milos Zeman
Czech Republic President Milos Zeman - Sputnik International
The president of the Czech Republic defended his decision to visit Moscow for Victory Day Sunday, stating that he seeks to show his gratitude for the Soviet soldiers who liberated Czechoslovakia in 1945.

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Czech President Milos Zeman defended his intention to attend Moscow's May Victory Day celebrations, saying that he wants to voice his gratitude to the Soviet soldiers who gave their lives liberating Czechoslovakia.

Speaking to Prague's Radio Frekvence 1 on Sunday, Zeman noted that "I am traveling to Moscow to express my gratitude for the fact that we are not forced to speak German in my country, and do not need to say 'Heil Hitler' or 'Heil Heydrich'," referring to a high-ranking Nazi official, who served as Deputy Protector of Bohemia and Moravia and who was one of the authors of the Holocaust before being assassinated by Czech and Slovak partisans in 1942. "It was Heydrich who announced in September, 1941 from the Prague Castle that Czechs don't belong on this land."  The president added that Czechs were next in line for extermination "right after the Jews."

Zeman stated that his visit would signify his country's respect to the 150,000 Soviet soldiers who fell in battle while freeing Czechoslovakia. "Without the Soviet Union, it would have been impossible to defeat Hitler. The price [of this victory was] 20 million Soviet citizens."

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Rejecting the idea that the Red Army came to Czechoslovakia as occupiers, Zeman stated that those who make such statements do not have a very good knowledge of history. "Soviet soldiers came to Czechoslovakia in 1945 as liberators, and by the autumn of that year had left our country. Whoever says the opposite simply does not know their history. In 1946, free elections took place which, unfortunately, were won by the Communist Party."

Commenting on the German Chancellor's plans to come to Moscow a day after Victory Day, Zeman noted that she probably made this decision because she would not have an opportunity to negotiate with the Russian president on May 9. "On the day of the parade, none of us [heads of state] will have an opportunity to negotiate with Vladimir Putin. In the best case there will be a chance to shake hands. After the parade, there will probably be the traditional photography sessions [for heads of state]. And perhaps we will be given something to eat, and that's it." Regarding the protocol involving photo opportunities, Zeman noted that he "will try to stand as far away from Kim Jong-un as possible, since, as I've already said, I will not shake hands with him."

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President Zeman has recently faced a wave of criticism from his European counterparts for his positions in relation to Russia. In February, Zeman called on the European Union to remove anti-Russian sanctions, while in January he stated that supporters of Stepan Bandera in Ukraine today are ignorant of their own history, noting that Bandera had planned to set up a Nazi-puppet state on the territory of Ukraine. Before that, Zeman showed his indignation over European leaders' silence regarding the January 1st torchlight march in Kiev commemorating Bandera's 106th birthday.

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