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Miloš Zeman and Petr Pavel both want to help Ukraine

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Czechia – Each in their own way, the now former Czech president and his successor spoke out in favour of helping Ukraine shortly before Petr Pavel took office on Wednesday, 9 March.

The outgoing social-democratic president, Miloš Zeman, received his Austrian counterpart, Alexander van der Bellen (Greens), and his wife at Prague Castle on 2 March. He then called on van der Bellen to play a role as a mediator in the war in Ukraine, saying:

I don’t want to interfere in Austria’s internal affairs, I am simply pointing out that in certain contexts, such as a mediator’s role, neutrality can be an advantage.”

But Alexander van der Bellen politely declined, while making it clear that his decision was not due to indifference.

 Austria is militarily neutral, but neutrality does not mean indifference”,

 he insisted.

President-elect Petr Pavel then had a meeting with the Austrian president as well. A few days earlier he had strongly criticised Hungary and Viktor Orbán’s single-handed approach, saying that he, too, wanted to bring peace to Ukraine, but by providing it with arms, insisting that

 In the longer term, combat aircraft should also be delivered to Ukraine.”

This last proposal is not unanimously supported in Czechia, where a majority of the population is against it. Petr Pavel intends to proceed nonetheless, “by patiently and persistently explaining the situation”.