Politicians and veterans' associations also came to lay wreaths at the memorial in Prague's Vitkov. Credit: vlada.cz

Red Army Soldiers Commemorated at Prague’s Olsany Cemetery

The end of the Second World War and the liberation of Czechoslovakia were commemorated yesterday afternoon, at the memorial to the soldiers of the Red Army in Prague’s Olsany Cemetery.

Senate chairman Milos Vystrcil (ODS), Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky (Pirates) and representatives of the Czech Sokol patriotic organisation attended the commemoration.

Vitaly Usatyi, who now represents Ukraine in the Czech Republic as charge d’affaires, also attended. Together with Czech politicians, he recalled the contribution of Ukrainian soldiers to the liberation of Czechoslovakia.

Usatyi said that among the Red Army soldiers buried in the Olsany Cemetery there are many Ukrainians, mobilised between 1943 and 1944, when Ukraine sent 3.7 million people to fight Nazi Germany in one year. In total, more than six million Ukrainians fought in the ranks of the Red Army, and others in the armies of Poland, the US and Britain, he said.

Like Czech politicians, including President Petr Pavel, Usatyi spoke of the similarities between the historical Munich Agreement before World War II and the present. He recalled that the Allies gave in to Hitler at that time, who then started the war.

The Ukrainian charge d’affaires said that the soldiers who gave their lives in the war hoped that their descendants would not have to fight again. Today, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren have to defend their homeland against aggressors, this time from Russia.

He also said that the war was now coming from the place where most words against fascism in Hitler’s Germany had been heard before – and where a similar regime was gaining strength again.

“Yes, what we see in Russia is ordinary fascism,” Usatyi said.

He said there is no alternative now to putting pressure on Russia through sanctions and the complete isolation of Vladimir Putin’s regime, but that it must also be defeated on the battlefield. “I think it is obvious to everyone today that Russia’s military defeat is a necessity. And just like 80 years ago, we Ukrainians are bearing the brunt. Unfortunately, victory will be achieved at the cost of the lives of tens of thousands of Ukrainians. Just as victory in World War II cost millions of lives,” he added.

Vystrcil also spoke about the parallel with the Munich Agreement. He paraphrased a well-known contemporary statement by Winston Churchill, who said before the Second World War that the powers chose between “shame and war.”

Today, he said, the Czech Republic is choosing between shame and support for Ukraine. “I am glad that the Czech Republic is choosing to support Ukraine,” he added. He said the Czech Republic should not take the path of concessions to Russia.

Lipavsky spoke of the developments after the war, when the Nazi regime was replaced by communism, which he said was similarly criminal.

“In this, our historical experience unites us with many nations of the Soviet Union,” he said. He mentioned that the Soviet regimes murdered or deported many people, including from Ukraine, who had fought against the Nazi occupation during the war.

Lipavsky also argued that in recent years, Russia had been taking credit for the victory over Nazism, and the Putin regime is now using this to justify its aggressive imperialist policy, of which Ukraine is now a victim.