Czech Republic

Missing editor

Andrei Babitsky, Prague Watchdog’s Russian-language editor, has apparently gone missing somewhere in Russia. Sources at PW say that Babitsky’s absence shouldn’t give rise to concern, as he is probably also working for RFE/RL in some capacity, and has simply stopped replying to email. The situation is causing some problems for PW, however – no new material has appeared there since May 5.

Update: a new article (by Valery Dzutsev) has now appeared, though Babitsky has still not returned.

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Iran, Russia, Israel, the U.S. and the West

According to the Sunday Times, the purpose of  Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow last month was to hand the Kremlin a list of Russian scientists Israel believes is helping Iran to build a nuclear warhead.

Another report, from opinia.us, suggests there are signs that the US State Department and the White House may have been duped by Russian propaganda experts into making the announcement of the cancellation of the Bush shield plan — to build missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic —  on September 17. September 17 was the date of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland at the beginning of WWII.

The anniversary approaches

As the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union approaches (August 23), some news stories:

First, Russia’s defence minister announces that most of the hijackers of the Arctic Sea were Estonians. This later becomes eight detainees, of whom four are claimed to be Estonians, two Latvians, and two Russians. The Estonian government issues a statement saying that it received no official notification of the arrest of Estonian nationals from the Russian government, as would be required by the agreement existing between the two countries. Estonia delivers a note to the Russian embassy in Tallinn, requesting clarification.

The Czech government expels two Russian diplomats for suspected espionage. Russia calls it an “unfriendly act”, and says it “will not promote development of normal relations between the two countries.”

Georgia officially leaves the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent State, or former Soviet Republics, led by Russia).

The History of Isolation

To coincide with the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow on May 9, Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s Minister of Emergency Situations and co-head of the supreme council of Putin’s United Russia party, gave a speech to military veterans in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) in which he called for a new law “to criminalize the denial of the Soviet victory in World War II”. The law would affect not only Russian citizens, but also anyone in the world who makes such a denial. It appears that under such legislation, if their leaders and/or citizens contest the rightness of Stalin’s victory, countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which suffered Soviet occupation either during or after World War II will be considered rogue states, and diplomatic and economic relations with them will be severed.

According to a survey by the VTsIOM polling agency, 60 percent of Russians support such a law, and a recent Levada Centre poll revealed that 63 percent believe that the Soviet Union could have won the war alone, without the help of Britain and the United States.

At Grani.ru, Valeria Novodvorskaya has made clear her view of the matter [my tr.]: 

Hitler’s Germany, beyond any doubt, had to be smashed. For the sake of humanity, for the Germans’ sake. The Hitlers of this world must not win. But the USSR should have lost, for the Stalins of this world, too, should not be handed victories. The Allies should have won the war: Britain and the United States. And they would have done so. No one would have left Hitler in power and at liberty, no one would have forgiven the Holocaust. Only – it should have been done wthout us. The Americans and British should have brought us liberation.

Soviet power would have fallen, and the country’s agony from 1948 until 1953 would have been avoided. And there would have been no Khrushchev or Brezhnev or Afghanistan or Andropov, no Putin and no KGB. And we would not have appeared to the world like slaves. The USSR should have lost the war. The United States already had the atomic bomb, they would have finished Hitler, even if he had conquered the USSR all the way to the Urals. Leningrad should have been surrendered. Of course, it would not have been pleasant to live under the Hitlerites, but millions of Leningraders would not have died from hunger, just as the Parisians did not die, or the citizens of Lyons.

The True European

In an interview for the Sunday Times, Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, tells it like it is about Europe and the EU:

European identity exists as a feeling of belonging to European continent, it is a feeling based on common history, culture, values, but it cannot be a politically constructed and imposed identity. For me, this feeling is certainly weaker than the feeling of belonging to my country. I think identity is not something you can give up and I do not think that some people feel their European identity as something in opposition to their national identities. It is an additional, not substitute identity.

Entropa

A Czech sculptor with a sense of humour. David Cerny’s vision of Europe has raised some hackles in Brussels and elsewhere. From ceskenoviny.cz:

Austria, well-known for its strict anti-nuclear stance, is presented as a country full of nuclear power plant towers, Germany is shown as a paradise for highway fans, the Netherlands is flooded by the sea of which only tops of minarets stick out, the British author cut out the UK from the European map to hint at the Britons´ dubious relations to the EU, the map of France is covered with the inscription “Strike!,” and Sweden looks like an IKEA box with the Gripen fighters.

“It is great, I think that it represents (particular countries) very well,” Silvio, an Italian employee of the EU Council, commented on the artifact.

“You have a sense of humour,” said a Bulgarian employee of a European institution with a smile, while looking at the map of Bulgaria with a big Turkish toilet.

The BBC’s Mark Mardell has more here.

Russia acted like a colonial power

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg said that when Russia invaded Georgia last month it acted like a colonial power, Reuters reports.

We have recently witnessed systematic provocations and finally military aggression of a powerful country, a permanent member of the Security Council, against its small neighbor with the aim to carve it up,” Karel Schwarzenberg told the U.N. General Assembly.

“This action was designed to create two tiny entities totally dependent (on) its administrative, economic and military structures. Colonial powers used to act this way.” 

Schwarzenberg also suggested that Moscow had violated a fundamental principle of the U.N. charter and international law — that disputes should be resolved peacefully and without resorting to military force, except in self-defence.