Calling out “cheap Russophobia,” Vaclav Klaus said such a move would be “childish”
Former Czech President Vaclav Klaus delivers a speech during a protest against government Covid-19 measures on January 10, 2021, Prague, Czech Republic © AFP / Michal Cizek/AFP
Vaclav Klaus, who served as the President of the Czech Republic from 2003 to 2013, has refused to return a Russian state decoration amid Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine. Back in 2007, Russia’s then-ambassador to the Central European country, Aleksey Fedotov, bestowed the Medal of Pushkin on the Czech politician for “bringing nations closer together and preserving their cultural heritage.” Klaus was the first Czech citizen to receive this award.
In an interview with Czechia’s Lidovky news outlet published on Friday, Klaus said he considered “it childish to return this medal to someone demonstratively,” adding that such a gesture was something he “would not lower [himself] to.” He went on to proclaim that he “would have to be taken to the execution site to do something like that.”
According to Klaus, the award in question was not “Putin’s medal,” but rather “Pushkin’s medal.” He argued that it had not even been President Vladimir Putin who had initiated the medal, but then-president Boris Yeltsin, as it had come into being back in 1999.
He referenced what he described as “the cheap Russophobia that still exists today,” and denounced the sweeping “cancelation” of “Russian culture.”