Czech PM Petr Fiala Says Putin Will Create New Soviet Union if We Don’t Stop Him Now

Petr Fiala has strong early memories of tanks. In August 1968, Soviet troops invade Czechoslovakia and crush an uprising against Soviet dictatorship. More than 100 people died in the streets while resisting the soldiers.

Fiala was only four years old then, but he can still recall the shock and anguish of his parents, which lasted long after the Soviet soldiers withdrew to their nearby barracks.

Now, Fiala is 57 years old and the prime minister of Czech Republicpeacefully separated from Slovakia in 1993. The Soviet invasion went down in history as “Prague Spring” has put Fiala on high alert when it comes to Russia.

This is why Fiala didn’t hesitate when the idea of ​​going to war-torn Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was floated at the European Union summit in Versailles.

“I have seen Soviet tanks on the streets of Prague and I know very well what it has done to my country for the next 20 years. I don’t want to see Russian tanks here or anywhere else in Europe again,” Fiala said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast.

“If we don’t defeat him [Putin], he will not stop in Ukraine. He will continue and will recreate the Soviet Union”.

Last week, three NATO prime ministers traveled by train to Kyiv to personally show support for Zelensky. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša joined Fiala on a highly unusual journey into a war zone.

In the Czech Republic, Fiala is seen by his opponents as well as some of his supporters as too dry, bookish and almost robotic in his public appearances and speeches. Now, the former university professor has done what many find amazingly brave, and which others describe as foolishly dangerous. Ignoring the warnings of the secret service, he put on a bulletproof vest and helmet and boarded a train to Kyiv.

It was a stressful trip. Sirens started the engine while the train was stopping near the town of Lviv, in western Ukraine, warning people of an impending Russian missile attack.

“The Prime Minister looks calm but I am afraid; can’t say otherwise,” Fiala’s chief of staff Václav Smolka told me with a nervous laugh.

They arrived in Kyiv unharmed and were driven in a convoy of cars to the bunker-like facility where Zelensky met them. Smolka says it’s like a ghost town, and there are a lot of checkpoints and obstacles in the city. The delegation caught a glimpse of residential buildings damaged by Russian bombs or missiles.

Fiala admitted he became emotional as he witnessed the scale of the devastation. He had seen some of Zelensky’s speeches to the European and British parliaments as well as the US Congress, and was moved. Meeting Zelensky in person, Fiala saw burnout in him, but he also saw rational determination and strategic thinking.

Fiala said: “These qualities of his can ultimately be decisive and it fills me personally with hope.

Britain returned to Prague with an urgent priority – the delivery of weapons to Ukraine, especially anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. “If they [Ukranians] With enough of these weapons, they can create their own no-fly zone,” says Fiala.

“But they need these weapons not in months, weeks, not tomorrow, but they need them now. I think even rich countries have that. I have seen in the last 10 days a big change in their mindset. They sent weapons. “

Besides weapons, economic sanctions that Fiala and other leaders from Eastern Europe see as powerful tools to challenge Putin. “I think it was us in the East, our narrative and our historical experience, that ultimately led the whole of Europe to impose sanctions against Putin’s Russia,” Fiala said.

In a brief moment in the interview, Fiala delves deeper into history, this time evoking another era: September 30, 1938. On that day, the Munich Agreement was signed, essentially. handing over Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler. The Western powers thought this would appease Hitler and prevent war in Europe. They miscalculated.

“We in Eastern Europe tell our allies in Western Europe that we must stand up against this [Russian] aggressive and remind them that in the past we haven’t and that was a disaster,” continued Fiala.

“There is no doubt that there is a difference between our historical experience and theirs. Every time we meet now, we try to convey this experience to our Western partners. And, I believe the West is listening this time around. “

It is now easy to find Czechs who support Prime Minister Fiala for his attitude towards Putin and for his courageous trip to Kyiv.

“It makes me very proud. In the end, our head of state did something extraordinary, showing a lot of courage and a big heart,” Praha veteran Kamil Prašný told me as we passed the Radio Building. Czech Republic in Prague, a site that saw bloody uprisings against even Nazi Germany. and past Communist regimes.

Prašný recalls the 1968 radio broadcast to protect the station against the Russian invaders so that the station could still provide independent information to the Czechoslovans. He heeded the call and rushed to the city center to confront the Russians. But history tells us that the Soviet Union prevailed, and freedom alienated the Czechs and Slovaks for another 21 years. “We have to support Ukraine now. They also fight for us. “

Prague seems to be on the side of the Ukrainians. Blue and yellow flags can be seen in many windows, on flagpoles or on the fronts of buses and trams. Some street signs have even been replaced, unorthodoxly. A street in Prague that has been called Russia for decades has been renamed by the people of Prague: “Russian warship, go ahead.”

It alludes to how Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island told a Russian Navy ship in the Black Sea where to go at the start of the conflict. New signs have now been erected along the entire two-mile length of this street. Some residents proudly show off letters and postcards they’ve just received with their new address.

“It’s great to see that the state postal service is on board with this unofficial name and delivering the mail to us, to an address that really doesn’t exist,” said a young man about to jump on a motorbike. his front. the building located on the street has changed its name.

Prime Minister Fiala does not use such garish vocabulary, but when it comes to Putin, his voice has a distinctive nuance.

“He is a war criminal. We have to isolate him, we have to isolate the whole of Russia. This is the only way we can win this war. And, I believe Putin will be held accountable for his crimes.”

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