“Marshal Konev, who liberated not only Prague but also [Nazi death camp] Auschwitz, fully deserved his place in Prague,” Zeman pointed out in an interview with local broadcaster iPrima.
Speaking from behind a medical face mask, he branded the dismantling of the monument to the commander of the 1st Ukrainian Front army group, one of the most celebrated Red Army generals of World War II, “a laughable and dumb” decision.
Those behind it “have achieved nothing in their lives. They are jealous of those who succeeded. Sadly, there are quite a lot of such people. They are driven by hatred and envy,” he said.
The authorities of District Six in the Czech capital, Prague, removed Konev’s statue from its pedestal in early April. Amid the coronavirus lockdown, District Mayor Ondrej Kolar joked the bronze commander was penalized because “he didn’t have a mask on.”
Kolar was blasted online, both for his divisive policies and his fringe sense of humor. Many also suspected him of deliberately choosing to tear down the monument during the Covid-19 outbreak to prevent protests like the ones that took place last September when the decision on the statue was made.
Some commenters suggested that Kolar had “his brain affected by the coronavirus” and reminded him that he would have never been born, much less a mayor, had Konev’s troops not liberated the city from the Nazis. The monument actually predates Kolar, who was born in 1984, by four years.
The move provoked a harsh response from Moscow, which is actively opposing attempts by the West and some Eastern European nations to rewrite WWII history.
The dismantling of the monument was described as a “dark day” in Prague’s history and a “provocation” aimed at damaging ties between Russia and the Czech Republic.
Russian prosecutors have launched a criminal case against the District Six administration in accordance with a new legislation that outlaws destroying or damaging memorials to those who died protecting the country.Zeman criticized the move as “counterproductive” for bilateral relations and an interference in the Czech Republic’s internal affairs.
Konev’s statue is slated to become an exhibit in a museum dedicated to the “totalitarian regimes” present on Czech territory in various periods. This means that the Soviet commander, who was welcomed like a hero in Prague in May 1945, will likely be part of the same exhibition as the Nazis, who occupied the Czech state during WWII. However, it’s currently unknown where and when this museum will open, if it ever happens.