Prague, Dec 10 (CTK) – A memorial to the Russian Liberation Army (ROA) members who died when they helped liberate Prague from the Nazis in May 1945 will be built in the city’s outskirts of Reporyje on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two, the Reporyje assembly decided today.
Prague-Reporyje Mayor Pavel Novotny (opposition Civic Democrats, ODS) said Reporyje should a have a site commemorating some 300 fallen ROA soldiers.
Members of the ROA were Soviet citizens who, after being taken prisoners by the Nazis, joined the ROA, which fought alongside Nazi Germany close to the end of the war. In May 1945, however, the ROA helped liberate Prague. It was headed by former Red Army general Andrei Vlasov who was executed by the Soviet regime after WW2. The ROA is known as the Vlasov Army in the Czech environment.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has condemned the plan. It said that indifference of Czech authorities to the plan amounted to an obvious siding with a criminal rewriting of history. The Russian embassy in Prague opposed the planned memorial as well. The Czech Foreign Ministry said this was an affair of a local self-rule body, on whose behalf the government could not decide.
Even Reporyje locals consider the memorial controversial. Some of them proposed to place a plaque on the memorial that would say not only that the ROA soldiers helped Czechs fight the Nazis but that they did other things for which they were infamous.
In a discussion at the assembly meeting tonight, Prague politician Robert Vasicek (opposition Freedom and Direct Democracy, SPD) and pro-Russian activist Zarko Jovanovic criticised Novotny’s plan. Some people who live in Reporyje also challenged the building of the memorial.
Some of the locals said their parents or grandparents remembered the ROA. They said all of the eye witnesses had spoken well of the ROA soldiers.
Historian Pavel Zacek (ODS) said the decision that one of the ROA units would help the Czechs fight against the Nazi Germans was made in Reporyje.
Reporyje deputy mayor David Roznetinsky (Greens) said they wanted to pay tribute on ordinary soldiers, not to general Vlasov or ROA division commander Sergei Bunyachenko who made this decision.
Novotny said the Reporyje town hall will discuss how the memorial is going to look like and it will take into account people’s comments on it. He said the term “Vlasov army” should not be mentioned on the memorial because it is highly controversial and misleading in this context.
Novotny rejected the idea that a local referendum on the possible construction of the memorial should be held.