By James Krotz
President Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic, the notably pro-Russian leader of the Czech government, came under fire in a speech today commemorating the 25 year anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that split the Czech Republic and Slovakia peacefully into two sovereign nations; literally. Protesters who gathered to watch his speech commemorating a plaque to the Revolution in Prague’s Old Town Square pelted the President’s security detail with eggs, tomatoes and other refuse in an attempt to hit Zeman. Zeman’s speech went largely unheard, as protesters booed and whistled throughout his entire remarks. The Presidents of Germany, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia were nearly caught in the crossfire as they stood behind Zeman while he spoke.
The President has been widely criticized by the Czech electorate for opposing sanctions on Russia in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Calling sanctions a “lose-lose” strategy, Zeman dissented to sanctions while many of his fellow European leaders approved limited sanctions against Putin’s government officials and Russian business leaders. His opinion could not be more unpopular when approval of Russia is the lowest in the Czech Republic since the Velvet Revolution. In addition, Zeman’s stance on Russia is seen as “unpatriotic”, especially at a time when Czechs peacefully came together and elected a democratic government, led by playwright Vaclav Havel.
It is clear that Zeman no longer represents the Czechs’ best interests, since Russian aggression threatens his country’s security and interests. Perhaps Zeman should follow the example of other East European leaders, who are calling for tougher sanctions on Russia and an increased NATO presence. One thing is for sure, being pro-Russian is not good for Zeman’s political career, much less his hand-tailored Armani suit.