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Zeman: Soldiers should protect Czech borders rather than deal with refugee crisis abroad

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Ostrava, North Moravia, Sept 22 (CTK) – Czech soldiers should be deployed primarily to protect the Czech border and not sent abroad over the refugee crisis, President Milos Zeman said Tuesday when he started his three-day visit to the Moravia-Silesia Region.

Zeman reacted to the previous statements by Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) saying the Czech military can send thousands of soldiers to the refugee camps around Syria if need be.

The number of active reservists should also increase, Zeman said.

“I think that not only the professional military, but also the voluntary reserves should participate in this, let us say, guarding service on the border. So far only 1200 men and women are in active reserves, but their number is to rise to 5000 soon,” said Zeman, who met the command and representatives of the active reserves of the Czech Military in Ostrava Tuesday.

“I do not like fences very much since they always make me remember the Berlin Wall… I think that instead of building fences on the border, it is much more suitable to send human forces there, which means both the military and voluntary reserves,” Zeman said.

His power of the supreme commander of the armed force of the Czech Republic are limited by the government that must approve the deployment of armed forces, Zeman said, adding that he had been pushing for their deployment for several months and the government’s stances were changing continuously.

The government first claimed that the deployment of armed forces would beuseless, then it admitted it, but said it was not urgent, Zeman said.

“In the third phase, it [government] started considering forming mixed patrols of soldiers and police,” he added.

Zeman also said he had already discussed the situation with Chief-of-Staff Josef Becvar.

“Some 1500 people were taken into consideration. Then the figure jumped to 2600, fortunately. And yesterday, Minister Stropnicky roused himself and started speaking about 5000 soldiers whom he would like to send abroad, for instance, to Syria. However, I think that these soldiers would be much more useful on our territory,” Zeman said.

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