PRAGUE (AP) — A district in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, decided Thursday to remove the statue of a Soviet World War II commander from its site, a move that angered Russia.
Marshall Ivan Stepanovic Konev led the Red Army forces that liberated Prague and large parts of Czechoslovakia from the Nazi occupation in 1945. His monument, unveiled in the Prague 6 district in 1980 when the country was occupied by Soviet troops, has been a source of controversy.
Russia vehemently protested when an explanatory text about Konev’s role in history crushing the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising in Hungary and preparing the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia was attached to his monument last year.
Prague 6 mayor Ondrej Kolar said the authorities wanted to give people “full information that would not conceal what happened.”
After the site was targeted by vandals, Prague 6 representatives on Thursday agreed with Kolar’s proposal to remove the statue, a plan criticized by Russia’s Foreign Ministry and pro-Russian Czech president Milos Zeman.
Russia’s Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky even called Kolar a “Nazi” last week.
Zeman sided with the Russian minister but Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said Medinsky should apologize to calm down the situation. He has refused to do so.
The Russian embassy in Prague on Thursday accused Prague 6 of “launching a campaign that offends the memory of Red Army soldiers, and the Czechs and Slovaks who were fighting to liberate Czechoslovakia and its capital from the Nazism.”
Prague officials say they expect the Konev site will get a new monument and his statue will be transferred to a “decent” place. It was not immediately clear when that would happen.