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Zeman to attend conference held by Putin’s friend again

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Prague, Aug 9 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman will attend this year’s international conference Dialogue of Civilisations in Rhodes, annually held by the Russian businessman and President Vladimir Putin’s, aide Vladimir Yakunin, which he also visited in 2014, Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said on Tuesday.

The 14th conference will be held from September 30 to October 1, the organisers say.

The Parlamentni listy server writes that Zeman will be the main speaker at the conference this year.

Zeman’s decision to attend the Rhodes conference was influenced by the information about the possible participation of the Slovak and Hungarian prime ministers, Ovcacek wrote to CTK.

“The president wants to use the conference Dialogue of Civilisations for key talks with the partners from the Visegrad Four Group (V4). This is very important in a situation where the V4 is again under pressure from Brussels to accept Muslim migrants,” Ovcacek told Parlamentni listy.

The V4 is comprised of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

The conference in Rhodes will follow up Zeman’s participation in the session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York where he will deliver a speech, Ovcacek added.

The opposition criticised Zeman for attending the conference two years ago. He compared the war in Ukraine to flu then and challenged the sanctions the EU and other Western countries imposed against Russia in reaction to its intervention in Ukraine. The opposition said Zeman had shamed the Czech Republic by his words.

Zeman’s predecessor in the presidential post, Vaclav Klaus (2003-13), attended the conference, founded and organised by oligarch Yakunin, last year.

The United States blacklisted Yakunin after the annexation of Crimea.

Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny filed several complaints and lawsuits against Yakunin’s business activities, but Yakunin categorically dismissed all accusations.

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