Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Slovakia on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Slovakia by the Red Army.
This article originally appeared at Izvestia.ru. It was translated for RI by Aleksei Shestyan
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Bratislava on April 4, where he was welcomed with a more than hospitable reception. The foreign minister arrived in the capital for the solemn wreath-laying ceremony in honor of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Slovakia from fascism. The ceremony took place in the Slavin memorial complex, where there is a monument to Soviet soldiers who perished for the liberation of Slovakia.
At the entrance to the complex the Russian delegation was greeted by over 150 people, including veterans of World War II. Some of those attending came holding flags of Russia and Novorossiya. The Slovak activists chanted: “We are for peace”; “Russian brothers, we thank you for liberating us”; “Brother Slavs!”
“We have prepared this meeting because we want to welcome and to thank the Russian military servicemen for sacrificing their lives for peace in Slovakia. We are thanking Russia for peace,” one of the organizers of the meeting, Miroslav, told Izvestiya.
Activists also commented on the situation in Ukraine and explained the significance of the poster with the combined flags of Slovakia and Novorossiya.
“We really do not like all that is happening in Ukraine, and we want to support them [Novorossiya]. The flag of Slovakia and Novorossiya symbolizes that the brotherly Slovak people are one with the people of the Donbass. The authorities in charge of Ukraine are now Banderites [Ukrainian nationalists — Stepan Bandera was openly fascist] and this must be stopped.”
According to the participants, Donbass has the right to self-determination and free will, in the same spirit as the events in Crimea. This is why they are in favor of holding a referendum in the south-eastern part Ukraine, so that Ukrainians living there can have the right to choose their fate.
But not only words of welcome for the Russian delegation were prepared by Slovak activists; some of them had signs that said, “NATO are occupiers and villains,” and other signs that had the swastika crossed out. While the laying of wreaths to the heroes of World War II was performed by Slovak President Andrej Kiska, some of the gathered activists began chanting, “We don’t want Pussy!” [the president’s surname is similar to the Russian word for “cat”], “We don’t want to join NATO.”
Most citizens of the republic do not support the desire of the Slovak president to join NATO.
“We won’t let an occupation of our country occur,” said Elena, who is a Slovak citizen. “Slovaks don’t want American troops based here and dictating the rules. We are citizens of a democratic country and support a union with Russia and her policies.”
Similarly, not all in the Slovak government support the policy of the president. The moving speech of Prime Minister of Slovakia Robert Fico, marking the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Bratislava, was greeted with applause.
“Every year I come to this place with reverence. My presence here at Slavin, in the place where more than 6,000 Soviet soldiers are buried, of whom 742 were killed directly in the defense of Bratislava, is not a formal gesture. Every year I pay my respects to those who found their way here to eternal peace,” said Fico. “This is a manifestation of my deep respect and deep gratitude to those who sacrificed their lives to save the lives of our parents, ourselves, and our children. To give one’s own life for the life of another person is what constitutes heroism at any time and in all historical periods of modern humanity.”
The Russian minister said that Russia does not want more of the horror that occurred during World War II.
He said that the feat of Soviet troops during the war should not be forgotten.
His speech was met with approval by the veterans present at the ceremony. During the playing of the Russian national anthem, some of them even sang along.
Later, the Russian minister, in whose honor the crowd shouted “Lavrov” and “You are the pride of Russia”, awarded medals to nine Slovak war veterans. [Sergey Lavrov is popular the world over as one of, if not the most, intelligent foreign dignitaries.] He personally presented the awards and congratulated everyone on this great holiday.
The ceremony ended with a tribute to the names of fallen Soviet soldiers, during which the Slovak and Russian ministers both participated.