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Czech News in English » News » National » Communist commander fighting nature protection

Communist commander fighting nature protection

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Prague, Feb 21 (CTK) – Former Czechoslovak Communist tank commander Zdenek Zbynek, an ally of President Milos Zeman, is one of the main figures opposing the widening of the zones left to spontaneous development in the Sumava National Park (NPS), daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes yesterday.
The Chamber of Deputies will take the final vote on the bill on nature protection and the landscape that changes the rules of national parks later yesterday.
Before the vote is taken, Zeman will come to the lower house and plead for the Senate version of the legislation that considerably softens the rules for nature conservation in Czech national parks.
The idea is fiercely opposed by environmentalists.
The events around Sumava have the signs of a modern hybrid war, HN writes.
On both sides, one can see the “greens,” but without uniforms. On the one side, there are environmental activists, natural scientists and Environment Minister Richard Brabec (ANO). They are opposed by orthodox foresters, hotel owners and one senior officer of the former Communist military, a friend of Zeman, the supreme commander of the armed forces, HN writes.
Zdenek Zbytek is a graduate from the Soviet General Staff Military Academy and the commander of a tank division under the Communist regime, it adds.
During the Velvet Revolution in November 1989 that toppled the Communist regime, Zbytek delivered a determined speech defending it, HN writes.
After he was sacked from the military, Zbytek showed a notable resilience. He made use of his old military contacts and started giving advice to Czech industrial companies in Russia and now he is considered an influential businessman with excellent links to the whole post-Soviet space, it adds.
Zbytek established the Russia Club and became its president and last December, he was awarded the Man of 2016 prize for the development of Czech-Russian relations in Moscow, HN writes.
Environmental activists believe Zbytek is the crucial person opposing them.
“Zbytek is playing the same role as senator Tomas Jirsa and Frantisek Talian, the biggest hotel owner in the Sumava,” Jaromir Blaha, an expert in forests from the Friends of the Earth movement, is quoted as saying.
Zbytek himself recalls that his love for the Sumava mountains started in 1978 when he became a deputy commander of a regiment in Prachatice, south Bohemia, and then spent much time in the adjoining Boletice military training grounds, HN writes.
Now he is struggling hard for tourism in Sumava. He has two hotels near the Sumava national park, it adds.
Zbytek argues that some natural scientists abuse European funds through subsidies for their “pseudo-scientific” studies about the renewal of the Sumava nature.
The activists are of the view that Zbytek primarily seeks his own business, which he fiercely denies, HN writes.
On the other hand, he makes no secret that he would like the whole Sumava area to be much more open to tourism.
In this respect, Zbytek has been very active. He has brought representatives of Russian travel agencies to the Lipno area in Sumava and organises various events such as international football tournaments for the youth and cross-country ski races.
A race was held in February under the auspices of South Bohemia Regional Governor Jiri Zimola (Social Democrats, CSSD). Czech Communist leader Vojtech Filip appeared there as a guest, HN writes.
The South Bohemia Region has signed official partnership with the Sverdlovsk Region in Russia, where Zbytek has been developing his deals in the sphere of energy and industry for over a decade.
The Sverdlovsk Region is administered by his very good friend, governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev, HN writes.
Zbytek is the deputy chairman of the Citizens Rights Party (SPO), a sort of Zeman’s fan club.
It was in Zbytek’s hotel Kilian that the SPO South Bohemia branch recently expressed unanimously support for Zeman, HN writes.

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