As Putin Seeks to Reinvent History, Russia-Czech Relations Hit a New LowBreaking News
tags: Cold War, Russia, Czech Republic, nationalism, Eastern Europe
A decision by officials in Prague to remove a statue of a Soviet army marshal from a local park last fall has evolved into a diplomatic dust-up that has only escalated since the sculpture was finally taken down in April, pushing tensions between the Czech Republic and Russia to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.
The spat took a dark turn this week as Ondrej Kolar, the mayor of an affluent district in Prague, confirmed that he has been placed under police protection after becoming the target of a Russian assassination plot. Over the weekend, an investigative reporter with the Czech magazine Respekt quoted unnamed security sources as saying that a Russian man traveling on a diplomatic passport flew into Prague three weeks ago carrying the deadly toxin ricin. From there he was picked up and taken to the Russian Embassy. The Russian Embassy in Prague has strongly denied the allegations.
The dispute over the statue of Red Army Marshal Ivan Konev cuts to the heart of ongoing efforts by Central and Eastern European countries to reevaluate their history since the fall of the Berlin Wall, said Jiri Pehe, the director of New York University’s center in Prague. “The Czech Republic is just like some other East European countries. Thirty years after the fall of communism, it is going through a certain reinterpretation of certain events,” he said.
The new tensions also reflect Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continuing efforts to glorify Russia’s role in World War II to bolster support for his own aggressive foreign policy while simultaneously airbrushing the authoritarian excesses of Soviet rule.
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