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Zeman says his PACE words do not legitimise Crimea annexation

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Plzen, West Bohemia, Oct 18 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman, whom the Plzen Region representatives criticised on Wednesday for his recent words on Crimea’s annexation as a fait accompli, repeated them and said they do not mean his legitimising the Russian step in 2014.

When Zeman arrived on a three-day visit this morning, the region’s Governor Josef Bernard (Social Democrats, CSSD) conveyed to him local councillors’ stance of disapproval of the statements he made at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) last week.

According to the Plzen councillors, Zeman’s words were at variance with Czech official foreign policy.

“By his CE statement on October 10, 2017, the president as the head of a state that has painful experience with the occupation of our country in 1968, openly legitimised aggression that is at variance with international law,” they said in a statement presented by Bernard.

Bernard, on the other hand, appreciated Zeman’s positions on other foreign political issues, such as his approach to Israel and his being one of few state representatives to have openly said that genocide occurred in Armenia in the early 20th century.

Nevertheless, the Plzen Region condemns the aggression of Russia occupying a part of Ukraine, he emphasised.

“We are against this aggression, as a country with a painful experience with the [Soviet-led] occupation in 1968. We believe it is worth sending a message from our small region to tell the Ukrainians, who still remain in a war zone and whose families with children suffer in a war, that we feel solidarity with them,” Bernard said.

Zeman objected that he did not mention Crimea in his PACE speech at all.

“I’d like those who criticise my speech to read it first,” he said.

He said he spoke of Crimea after finishing his speech and while responding a question from the audience,

“Some criticise me for having legitimised the annexation of Crimea. I can say that in my public appearances, I have always labelled the annexation unlawful,” Zeman said.

True [in Strasbourg, I said what no statesman ever said, that the occupation of Crimea is a fait accompli. A fait accompli does not mean a recognition of the annexation as legitimate. On the contrary, it is terminus technicus,” Zeman said.

Several regional politicians refused to meet Zeman, also due to his statements on Crimea, during his visit to Plzen on Wednesday, and others refused to attend a gala dinner with him, saying they would not join his campaign ahead of the mid-January presidential election, which his tours of regions are, in their opinion.

“President Zeman has disappointed me. He does not unite the nation, nor does he unite voters except those supporting him. He puts his ego and the settling of his personal and his close aides’ commercial interests above the interests of the nation,” said Richard Pikner, head of the TOP 09 group of regional assemblymen.

“Excuse me, but I do not lunch with people who are calling for the violation of international law,” TOP 09 deputy chairman Marek Zenisek said, declining the invitation to the lunch.

By his Crimea statements, Zeman brought shame on the Czech Republic and on all human rights promoters, Zenisek said.

Zeman also said in Strasbourg that Kiev and Moscow should agree on compensation for it, in the form of money or Russian oil or gas. These words, too, met with criticism from Petro Poroshenko and other Ukrainian politicians, and also from Czech politicians who said they were at variance with Prague’s policy.

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