Prague, Dec 28 (CTK) – Some 60 supporters of Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev (1897-1973) met at his memorial in Prague 6-Bubenec today to remember his 122nd birth anniversary and they verbally clashed with a dozen opponents protesting against them.
The police checked a gun dummy that a man wearing a Soviet wartime military uniform brought to the meeting, Prague district police directorate chief Lucie Skrobalova told reporters.
People laid flowers and lit candles at the Konev statue that the Prague 6 Town Hall intends to remove.
A man and a woman in WWII uniforms and some Communist (KSCM) politicians attended the event in memory of Konev.
Their opponents carried NATO, EU and U.S. flags and banners reading “This Is No Russia, We Command Ourselves Here.”
There were loud verbal clashes between both camps, people were whistling and a siren was heard.
Prague-Reporyje Mayor Pavel Novotny (Civic Democrats, ODS) came to express support for the Konev opponents. He drew the media and public attention by his plan to install a memorial to the Russian Liberation Army (ROA), dubbed as the Vlasov Army, in his municipal district.
Members of the ROA were Soviet citizens who, after being taken prisoners by the Nazis, joined the ROA fighting alongside Nazi Germany at the close of the war. In May 1945, however, the ROA helped liberate Prague. Roughly 300 of its members died in the fighting.
The Russian embassy in Prague condemned today’s incident at the Konev statue in Prague as an act of vandalism.
“Further vandalism against the memorial in Prague 6 municipality looks especially cynical and clearly shows the culture of those who are fighting with memorials to the liberators here and at the same time, are trying to make heroes of the Nazis’ lackeys,” embassy spokesman Nikolay Bryakin told the TASS Russian news agency today.
He added that the embassy again called on the Czech authorities to provide the memorial to the joint history, the monument to Ivan Stepanovich Konev, a sufficient protection and not to let barbarian crimes go unpunished.
Supporters of Konev also remembered the anniversary of his birthday on December 16, when he was born under the Julian calendar, which some Orthodox churches still use. Konev’s grand-daughter Elena Koneva and Russian Ambassador to the Czech Republic Alexander Zmeyevsky attended the meeting.
The participants clashed with opponents of Konev and the police had to intervene then.
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Federation Council, the Russian parliament’s upper house, called it unacceptable to defame memorials to the victors over Nazism and criticised what he called the activities by “the Czech Nazis” (neo-Nazis) in today’s interview with the TASS Russian news agency. In this connection, the agency reminded of the attacks on Konev’ statue in Prague and the plan of its removal.
The Konev monument, built in Prague 6 in 1980 to remind of his role in the liberation of the Czech Lands from the Nazis in 1945, has been repeatedly damaged and provoked demonstrations.
Last year, the town hall had an explanatory plaque installed on the monument to remind of Konev’s dark role in the suppression of the Budapest uprising in 1956, the Berlin Wall construction in 1961 and the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact military invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 that crushed the reform movement dubbed as the Prague Spring.
After an unknown perpetrator poured red paint on the monument in August, Prague 6 Mayor Ondrej Kolar (TOP 09) refused to have it cleaned and then he had scaffolding with tarpaulin built around it, which triggered conflicts on an international level.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the Czech politicians who decided so initiated a war with the symbols of the victory over fascism. Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky compared Kolar with a Nazi boss. Russia threatened to retaliate.
The Prague 6 authority’s plans to relocate the Konev statue and replace it with a memorial to the Prague liberation in 1945 have provoked sharp reactions by the Russian embassy and senior officials. Prague 6 is consulting the Defence Ministry and the Prague City Hall on its plans. It is not clear yet when and where the Konev statue will be moved.