Former President Václav Klaus called articles claiming that he had secretly sent a $1.3 billion (€1.06 billion) loan to the Soviet Union in the early 1990s as an “unbelievable handful of lies”. Klaus considers the article of the Hospodářské noviny daily a planned attack on his person, possibly with the aim of blocking his possible return to politics.
The money borrowed on the basis of an agreement concluded by the communist government of Ladislav Adamec became part of a multi-billion debt, of which Russia returned only a fraction to the Czech Republic. The Hospodářské noviny daily, in collaboration with several other news outlets, points to documents from the National Archives.
In April 1989, Zdeněk Rachač, an official of the Czech Ministry of Finance, proposed to provide a billion-dollar loan to the Soviet Union. The proposition was then approved by Adamec’s government. In November of the same year, however, the communist regime fell, and on Dec. 10, the cabinet of Marián Čalfa, in which Klaus was minister of finance, took over the government.
“I don’t remember this loan to the Soviet Union. I didn’t and still don’t know much about this loan, concluded on Nov. 10, 1989, one month before I became minister of finance,” Klaus said.
“Long before I took office, the then Czechoslovak government approved the loan, which was supposed to ensure that the Soviet Union could continue to buy our goods even in the absence of transferable rubles and focused mainly on the sale of engineering products. It was not a secret conspiracy act,” he noted.
Klaus added that Rachač was one of the thousand officials in the Ministry of Finance. He stressed that he did not select his employees after the fall of communism and taking office.
According to the Hospodářské noviny daily, there is a letter from December 1989 in which Klaus, as the minister of finance, was warned against sending the loan to Russia by the then director of the Czechoslovak Commercial Bank (ČSOB). According to Klaus, however, the daily distorted the correspondence. The letter only concerned the possible loss that the bank could suffer.
“At that time, we were very strongly connected to the Soviet Union economically. We totally depended on Soviet raw materials, oil, natural gas, iron ore. (…) It was, of course, necessary to continue a certain elementary type of economic contact,” said Klaus.
After 1989, Czechia tried to recover the debt from Russia, which overall reached $3.6 billion (€2.94 billion). While Miloš Zeman served as the prime minister, a private company bought about two-thirds of the debt from the state.
In August 2013, the government of Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok approved an agreement with Russia to repay the remaining debt. According to Rusnok’s statement at the time, Czechia was to obtain approximately 80 percent of the rest of the debt, i.e., at least $6.5 million (€5.3 million). Before Christmas 2013, the Russian Ministry of Finance announced that the debt to the Czech Republic had been repaid through supplies of industrial production and partly by money.
Title image: Václav Klaus giving a statement on the allegations of the Hospodářské noviny daily (Václav Klaus Institute)