Czech leader defends decision to attend Moscow parade

PRAGUE -- Milos Zeman will attend Victory Day celebrations in Moscow in order to express "his gratitude for the fact Czechs are not forced to speak German today."

(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)

Russia will on May 9 organize a military parade to mark 70 years since World War II victory.

"I am not going there because of the military parade, I'm going to pay my respects to the 150,000 fallen soldiers. As an expression of gratitude for the fact that in this country we do not have to speak German as their obedient collaborators, we do not have to salute 'Heil Hitler, Heil Himmler, Heil Goring'... " the Czech president told Radio Frekvence 1.

Zeman noted that without the Soviet Union's contribution, victory over Hitler's Germany would not have been possible.

"And 20 million victims was the price for that victory, so I will not mind a tank or two on Red Square," said Zaman, alluding to the statements made by presidents of Poland and Slovakia that they would snub the May 9 event "because they cannot watch a parade of Russian military forces at the time of the conflict in Ukraine."

Zeman has been criticized for going to Moscow "as a rare EU leader, while the parade will also be attended by the North Korean leader."

"I guess the parade will take place, then the joint photo will be taken when I will try to stand as far as possible from Kim Jong-un because I said I would not shake his hand, and then they'll probably give us something to eat," he said jokingly.

Zeman also reiterated that he "does not mind" U.S. soldiers passing through his country in convoys under NATO's flag "to show that East European members that fear Russia will not be alone."

"I was surprised by the reaction of some people. I understand people who are against such relocation (of American soldiers in combat vehicles). I merely do not understand the people who mark that convoy as American occupation of the Czech Republic. That's a psychiatric diagnosis," said Zeman.