Visegrád states: more distance from Putin demanded

The EU has reacted swiftly and in unison to the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops. Nevertheless, observers expect Hungary and Poland in particular to distance themselves more clearly from Russia. Is Czech President Zeman's break with his long-time friend Putin anything more than symbolic politics?

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Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Zeman is like a Nazi collaborator

Hospodářské noviny sees this as an embarrassing attempt by Zeman to deceive the public:

“The facts are clear: Zeman has defended Russia's interests at Prague Castle for nine years. Key words: Crimea, Novichok, Rosatom, the Sputnik vaccine or [the doubts he spread about Russian involvement in the attack on the ammunition depot in the Moravian village of] Vrbětice. If the president now claims that it was all a mistake, wraps himself in a Ukrainian flag and pretends to be an anti-Russian hawk, that is completely implausible. Today's Zeman is like one of the collaborators who quickly slipped into the uniform of the 'patriotic' Revolutionary Guards in 1945 and began to expel the Germans.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Everyone deserves a second chance

In distancing himself from Putin, Zeman has sent an important signal, Lidové noviny points out:

“With the intention of awarding the Ukrainian president [rather than Putin] the highest Czech medal for courage and bravery, Zeman is underscoring his stance. ... Zeman has done much to deserve a bad report card. His trust in Putin was worse than a mere misjudgement, which almost anyone can be blamed for. With this trust he also deceived his allies and his own intelligence service. But now Zeman is standing up for the defence of freedom. Let's give him the opportunity to become a better man in his last year in office.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

The Putinisation of Poland continues

Gazeta Wyborcza does not trust the Polish government:

“What gestures of goodwill have we seen from the PiS? How has it shown its will to right wrongs? When did it ever restore even a small part of the rule of law? ... The answer is: never. And it still isn't. On the contrary: Morawiecki and Duda already knew in late autumn that Russia would probably invade Ukraine, and they received Le Pen in Warsaw with all honours. They've strengthened their ties with Orbán and still haven't distanced themselves from him even though today he openly sides with Putin. ... These people are still Putinising Poland and their rhetoric has changed only slightly under the influence of the war.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

PiS must turn its back on Orbán

Rzeczpospolita sees the chance of a rift opening up between Warsaw and Budapest:

“The PiS knew it could afford a conflict with Brussels because it could count on an alliance with Orbán when unanimity was needed in the EU. Now this could become a liability. At the crucial moment, Orbán is unable or unwilling to sever the ties between him and Putin, forcing the PiS to return from Budapest to Brussels.”