The Czech Republic is on target to meet its Nato commitments – in terms of spending on defence, taking part in foreign missions in deadly hotspots such as Afghanistan, and countering new types of threats, from cyberwarfare to disinformation campaigns. In a wide-ranging interview, Czech Ambassador to Nato Jiří Šedivý takes stock of the many challenges ahead.
President Miloš Zeman has defended Czech participation in NATO's
Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.
In an address to Czech ambassadors, who are assembled in Prague for their annual consultations, President Zeman said that Czech soldiers in Kabul were fighting for Prague, and their presence there was vital for the country’s national interests.He said Afghanistan was the most important foreign mission in which Czech soldiers were currently taking part.
The words came in reaction to criticism of Czech participation in the Afghan mission from some Czech parties and suggestions that the Czech Republic should withdraw its troops.
President Zeman also addressed the issue of sanctions against Russia arguing that they should not be extended in the European Council without proper debate on the issue.
Former Czechoslovak Prime Minister Antonín Švehla will be posthumously
awarded the Order of the White Lion, the highest distinction given by the
Czech state, on October 28, the 100th anniversary of the independence of
President Miloš Zeman announced the award would be given to Švehla during his visit to an international agricultural fair in České Budějovice. He said on he wanted to pay tribute to a politician who, in his day, supported farmers. Švehla had been head of the Agrarian Party and led three governments between 1922 and 1926.
At the centennial celebrations, Zeman is also expected to award two-time Olympic champion Ester Ledecká, former Energy Regulatory Authority director Alena Vitásková, and, also posthumously, three Czech soldiers killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan earlier this month: Sergeant Martin Marcin, and Corporals Kamil Beneš and Patrik Štěpánek.
The remains of the three Czech soldiers killed in a suicide bombing in
Afghanistan have been flown back to the Czech Republic where they have been
hailed as national heroes.
A special ceremony at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport was attended by President Miloš Zeman who is head of the Czech Armed Forces, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, Defence Ministry officials, family and friends. Hundreds of people turned out to pay their last respects.
The three servicemen have been posthumously promoted to the rank of officer and will be buried with military honours. President Milos Zeman will award them with medals of bravery on October 28th, the country’s national holiday.
To date 9,000 Czech soldiers have served in Afghanistan. Thirteen of them were killed. The deadliest attack, in 2014, claimed five lives.
The Czech soldiers killed on Sunday had been patrolling an area about near Bagram Air Base, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan.
The recent incident in Afghanistan, which claimed the lives of three Czech soldiers stationed in the country as part of NATO’s mission, has opened up several questions, including how the Czech Republic cares for its modern-day war veterans and whether it does enough to help them re-integrate into society once they have left the army.
People are sending money in aid of the families of the three soldiers
killed in Afghanistan on Sunday. According to the head of the Military
Solidarity Fund, Lenka Šmerdová, news of the soldiers deaths sparked a
strong wave of solidarity with thousands of people sending money to a
special account. Over 1.2 million crowns has been collected so far.
People’s hearts have gone out in particular to the young widow of Corporal Kamil Beneš who gave birth to their first child – a son – just a week after her husband left on his mission. He never got to see his three months old baby.
The Defence Ministry is also providing for the families.
The three Czech soldiers killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan on
Sunday will be buried with military honours, Defence Ministry spokesman Jan
Pejšek said on Monday.
Sirens will sound nationwide in their memory at midday on Wednesday, the day on which their remains will be brought home on a special army plane.
President Miloš Zeman, the head of the Czech Armed forces, and leading political representatives will be present at the ceremony at the airport.
Since 2002 more than 9,000 Czech soldiers have served in Afghanistan. Thirteen of them were killed.
Three Czech service members were killed in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday by a suicide bomber while conducting a joint foot patrol with U.S. and local soldiers. Hailed as heroes by Czech military brass and politicians, the soldiers were serving in Nato’s “Resolute Support” mission, a non-combat mission training and advising the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.
President Miloš Zeman, the head of the Czech Armed Forces, expressed deep
sorrow over the news of the deaths of three Czech soldiers in Afghanistan,
adding that the tragedy must not deter the international forces from the
fight against terrorism.
Condolences and words of acknowledgement are streaming in from Czech politicians across the board.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said on Twitter the three soldiers were national heroes and expressed deep respect for the fact that they had laid down their lives for the country.
Jana Černochová from the Civic Democrats said she was deeply moved and proud off all the Czech soldiers who were risking their lives to defend our freedom far from home.