The Financial Times reports on the Czech Republic’s rapidly escalating feud with Russia over two Prague landmarks that’s got two Czech politicians living under police protection.
Prague district mayor Ondrej Kolar was placed under police protection after receiving threats over the removal of a statue of Soviet world war two commander Ivan Konev from the square in his neighborhood. “There is a threat that the police have identified, and that threat is linked directly to Russia,” Mr. Kolar told the Financial Times.
Mr. Kolar has been lobbying for the removal of the statue for years, and it’s not the first time he’s been threatened over the project “Last year I asked [the police] if they could protect me. This time they told me they must,” FT writes.
Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib is also under police protection after receiving threats for renaming the square where Russia’s embassy is located after murdered Putin-critic Boris Nemtsov, FT writes.
Both men declined to discuss the threats against them in detail and refused to comment on a report by Respekt that a Russian diplomat arrived in Prague carrying ricin was flagged by Czech security services as a threat to both Mr. Kolar and Mr. Hrib.
Czech observers say Russia’s response was so fierce because Moscow’s promotion of the Red Army as liberating Europe from the Nazis, is central to Putin’s attempts to rally domestic support, and a vital tool in relations with CEE countries, FT writes.
Mr. Hrib says he won’t back down in the face of intimidation. “For me, it’s very important to stand by my beliefs, even though it could mean risks to my safety, because the Czech Republic is a democratic country, and I have a duty as an elected politician to defend the freedom of speech,” he said. “Not just for myself, but also for other citizens,” FT reports.