Former Czech President, Communist Party leader attend reception at Russian Embassy
A commemorative ceremony in Prague's Olšany Cemetery at the memorial to Soviet soldiers who fell during WWII has been attended by Czech politicians today. Czech MP Jan Hamáček, the chair of the lower house, laid a wreath at the graves.
A celebratory reception at the Russian Embassy marking Victory Day will not, however, be attended by any of the current political representatives of the Czech Republic. Former Czech President Václav Klaus and Communist Party leader Vojtěch Filip did confirm they would be attending.
Today's edition of Právo reports that most Czech politicians commemorated the anniversary of the war's end yesterday. Today is Victory day in Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union.
A commemorative ceremony for the 140 000 Soviet soldiers who fell while fighting the Nazis in Czechoslovakia took place at Olšany Cemetery in Prague today. Hamáček laid a wreath there at the graves of Red Army soldiers.
The Russian Embassy holds its traditional reception on 9 May as well. Last year Czech President Miloš Zeman attended the reception and later drew attention to himself by walking unsteadily during a ceremony at St Vitus Cathedral in which the chamber holding the crown jewels is opened.
Zeman claimed at the time that he was suffering from flu. Now, after the events in Ukraine these past few weeks, both Zeman and Czech diplomats have criticized Moscow for how it has proceeded.
This year the Czech head of state will be represented at the embassy gathering only by the Director of the Foreign Affairs Department at Prague Castle, Hynek Kmoníček. Czech diplomats will be represented only by lower-level officials from the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
As in previous years, however, former Czech President Klaus will still attend. Other celebratory events are being held by the Russian Center of Culture and Science, which will commemorate the end of the war with a concert.
Politicians, soldiers, war veterans and others commemorated the 69th anniversary of the end of WWII yesterday in the Vítkov quarter of Prague. As is traditional, a military parade was held at the National Monument.
People observed a minute of silence for all those who gave their lives for the freedom of Czechoslovakia. The commemoration began with the national anthem.
After the parade of military units, soldiers carried historical military banners into the courtyard before the monument to the strains of the Hussite chorale "Ktož sú boží bojovníci" ("Ye Who Are Warriors of God"). The President and other politicians, representatives of associations, and war veterans then laid wreaths at the monument.
A minute of silence for the fallen soldiers was followed by shots from the honor guard. The event was attended by the chairs of both chambers of Parliament (Czech MP Jan Hamáček and Czech Senator Milan Štěch), Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Defense Minister Martin Stropnický, Mayor of Prague Tomáš Hudeček, Cardinal Dominik Duka and the Chief of the General Staff, Petr Pavel, who has just been promoted to the rank of General.
Stropnický told the press that it is necessary to commemorate these historic events given the current situation in Ukraine. "Without getting too bogged down with big words here, I would say the most important thing is to realize that peace cannot be taken for granted even in 2014, and that our friends, grandparents and parents gave their lives for it," he said.
According to Zeman, it is also important to recall how the veterans of WWII fared, primarily those who fought in England. He honored the memory of General Heliodor Píka, who became a victim of Communist terror in 1949.
Zeman believes Píka was murdered, "because execution, too, can be a form of murder". He also said the Czech Republic was only commemorating Victory in Europe Day because the Second World War did not actually end until September 1945 after the defeat of Japan.
At the close of the commemorative ceremony, Zeman awarded honors to the Battalion Training Command of the Military Academy, bestowing upon them the honorary title of "Colonel Ladislav Preininger Battalion Training Command". Preininger fought during the First World War, worked in the resistance organization "Defense of the Nation" (Obrana národa) during the Nazi occupation, and was arrested in July 1941 by the Gestapo, who executed him in October of that year.
Commemorations related to the anniversary of the war's end are also being held today in other Czech cities. Most of the states in the world participated in World War Two.
In Czechoslovakia, the Nazis occupied the territory of Bohemia and Moravia and turned it into a Protectorate, while Slovakia became an independent state. Czechs left the country to fight on both the Eastern and Western Fronts.
World War Two cost more than 60 million lives and was the largest conflict humanity has ever known. Precise numbers of the human losses on the territory of the Czech Republic do not exist, as the data differ.
It is generally believed that as many as 360 000 citizens of the former Czechoslovakia perished during WWII. More than two-thirds of them were Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
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