The president of the Czech Republic has decided not to participate in Russia's traditional Victory Day military parade when he visits Moscow in May.
Speaking to reporters Friday, the president’s spokesman, Jiri Ovcacek, said that President Milos Zeman would not attend the parade, which commemorates the end of World War II in Europe. However, the spokesman said the Czech leader still planned to travel to Moscow to honor the Soviet soldiers killed during the war.
Zeman’s previous announcement that he would attend the victory parade in Moscow drew criticism from the U.S. ambassador to Prague; European Union leaders, who are boycotting the ceremony because of Russia’s role in the eastern Ukraine conflict; and from top Czech officials, including the prime minister.
The U.S. ambassador, Andrew Schapiro, said in an interview with Czech television that it would be "awkward" if Zeman attended the ceremony as the only statesman from an EU country.
Zeman said that he “won't let any ambassador have a say” in his “foreign travels,” adding that the U.S. envoy was no longer welcome at Prague Castle, seat of the presidency.
Zeman has repeatedly criticized sanctions against Moscow imposed by the West in response to the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Generally, he has taken a more pro-Moscow stance than the European Union and NATO member governments.
The Czech cabinet has not yet decided whether to approve Zeman's visit to Moscow.