Czech President Zeman warns of civil war in Ukraine


05.05.2014 19:19

Prague - The risk of a civil in Ukraine has increased after the recent violent clashes in Odessa that claimed dozens of lives, Czech President Milos Zeman told journalists at a press conference held along with his German counterpart Joachim Gauck, now on an official visit here, today.


Německý prezident Joachim Gauck (vlevo) a český prezident Miloš Zeman vystoupili 5. května v Praze na tiskové konferenci. ČTK Doležal Michal

Gauck said he hoped both sides of the conflict would keep calm and return to negotiations.

At the beginning of the visit, Zeman decorated Gauck with the Czech Order of the White Lion 1st Class and Gauck decorated Zeman with the German Grand Cross Special Class.

When assessing the situation in Ukraine, Zeman repeated his view that the country was threatened either with a civil war or a military intervention from abroad.

"After the Odessa events, I must, unfortunately, consider the alternative of a civil war somewhat likelier," Zeman said, adding that a civil war could also become a pretext for a foreign intervention.

Zeman said he doubted whether the current Ukrainian government had the Ukrainian military under its control.

Zeman said the doubts were provoked by the experiences of the released OSCE observers who were detained by pro-Russian separatists in Slaviansk, eastern Ukraine, last week.

"[After its release], the mission had to bypass the checkpoints of the Ukrainian military along field ways to avoid its fire," Zeman said.

He thanked Germany for the role it played in the talks on the release of the mission members, which included one Czech.

Gauck said Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD) had thanked him for the German effort that helped release the OSCE observers.

Zeman joined Zaoralek's thanks and also praised the help by Russian envoy Vladimir Lukin.

Speaking about the Ukrainian crisis, Gauck supported cooperation within the OSCE.

"It is unacceptable for politics in Europe to be made again by means of threats," Gauck said.

"We call on all participants in the conflict to keep quiet and to return to the negotiation table," he added.

Gauck asked Moscow to cooperate with the OSCE.

On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on the OSCE's mediation of the talks in Ukraine.

Gauck and Zeman also discussed different affairs. Zeman said after the talks the Czech Republic should adopt the euro and stop being a trouble-maker in the EU.

This is a precondition for its being "at least a gearbox," while Germany is considered its economic engine, he added.

The Czech Republic must not be a trouble-maker in the EU and it should not "try to emulate Britain in its rather distanced attitude to the EU," Zeman said.

Under the tenure of Zeman's eurosceptic predecessor Vaclav Klaus (2003-2013), the Czech Republic seemed to be on the fringe of European integration.

Gauck and Zeman also touched on the Czech-German past that includes the Nazi occupation of the Czech Lands in 1939-1945 and postwar transfer of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia.

Zeman said not politicians, but historians should deal with history.

"However, we must still bear in mind the past so that we do not experience it again," he added.

On Tuesday, Zeman and Gauck will visit the former Terezin concentration camp in north Bohemia, in which over 35,000 people, primarily Jews, died during World War Two.

This afternoon, Zeman and Gauck laid wreaths at the memorial to Czechoslovak World War One anti-Austrian resistance fighters abroad and they met about 20 World War Two veterans on the 69th anniversary of the anti-Nazi Prague uprising in the evening.

Gauck also laid flowers at the grave of democratic politician Milada Horakova, a victim of Communist show trials from 1950. He was there along with his partner Daniela Schadt, accompanied by Prague Archbishop Cardinal Dominik Duka.

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