Slovak firefighter tells ROMEA TV his remarks about Roma from Ukraine were based on what they themselves told him and the Czech reporter misunderstood him
Colonel Marián Pouchan, the commander of the base for the firefighting brigade in Humenné, Slovakia, rejects the idea that his recent remarks about Romani people fleeing into Slovakia from Ukraine had a racist subtext - in an interview for ROMEA TV, he said he had just repeated information to a Czech reporter that the Romani refugees from Ukraine had communicated to him. Those remarks, which media outlets characterized as racist, were documented in an article for the Czech daily Deník by reporter Luboš Palata.
"[The Roma from Ukraine] have abused this situation," Pouchan was quoted as saying. "They are not people who are directly threatened by the war."
"They are people from near the border, they have abused the opportunity for us to cook them hot food here and to receive humanitarian aid," he told the Czech daily. Pouchan also reportedly said Romani people from Ukraine should not be allowed across the border into Slovakia.
In an interview for ROMEA TV he toned down his remarks but admitted that he bears "50 %" of the blame for having made them. "I want to clear my name, I'm no racist," Pouchan told ROMEA TV.
"I got that information from the Ukrainian Roma," he said. "Somebody told them that as war refugees they would get allowances in euro in Slovakia for their children and themselves."
"This is a misunderstanding, 50 % of the blame goes to the reporter and 50 % is mine," the firefighter explained. "Naturally Romani people are also fleeing Ukraine, but what I meant was that the locations near the border with Slovakia are not directly endangered by the war."
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