"I am going as a symbol of appreciation for the fact that my country does not have to speak German — that we do not have to say 'Heil Hitler.'" - Czech President
Czech President Milos Zeman will be present for the Moscow celebration of Victory Day, despite heavy criticism from opponents. As several other western leaders announce their boycotting of Russia's celebratory tribute, Zerman told reporters yesterday he would attend as a gesture of due appreciation.
The events planned for May 9th will be perhaps the biggest in Russia's tradition of tributes to the fallen of World War II. This, the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, may also be the last for many of the few heroic survivors of the war. Zerman told radio station Frekvence on Sunday:
"I am going as a symbol of appreciation for the fact that my country does not have to speak German — that we do not have to say 'Heil Hitler.'"
Also attending the festivities are Russia's close allies in Asia, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Western leaders who were allies of the Soviet Union over the new west versus east political crisis. Meanwhile the leaders of Germany, all three Baltic States, and ironically Israel have said they will not attend.Japan and Norway have also stated their refusal to join in the remembrance.
Crimea's vote to join Russia is being used as a crucible as many Western governments' relations with Russia ebb to a post-Cold War low.