The entry of Russian troops into the territory of the Ukrainian separatist republics has been an “invasion by invitation,” warned Tomio Okamura, the leader of the right-wing populist Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party in Czechia.
Okamura spoke of the consequences of the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine, predicting the return to the European Union of a wave of refugees in remarks the Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala labeled as “inhumane.”
“Mass migration from Ukraine is a real threat,” Okamura declared. “If it happens, the Czech Republic will become one of the main destinations. This will cause two negative effects — deterioration of the security situation and decline in wages of our citizens in the manual professions,” he added.
According to him, the refugee wave is a threat after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees recognizing the independence of the two separatist republics in eastern Ukraine. Russian troops subsequently entered these territories, escalating the conflict and prompting NATO members to impose punitive sanctions on Russian assets.
According to the Czech prime minister, efforts to resolve the conflict through diplomatic channels continue, and it is premature to fear mass migration at this time.
“Let’s not scare the public,” Fiala said in response to Okamura’s remarks. “Let us also realize that we are talking here about people fleeing to save their lives. That seems inhumane to me.”
One country that has vowed to suspend diplomatic channels for the time being is the United States, whose Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters it made “no sense” to meet with Russia at this stage, but insisted diplomacy was still an option if Russia was “serious” about de-escalation.
Czechia wants workers from countries such as Ukraine
Concerns about the impact of Ukrainian refugees on the Czech labor market are also odd, Fiala claimed.
“Mr. Okamura does not understand what Czech companies have problems with, that they desperately need employees. On the contrary, we are trying to create conditions for the opening of our labor market to people from countries that are linguistically and culturally close to us,” added Fiala.
According to him, the government is adequately preparing the country for a potential refugee wave.
“We are ready for the movement of single numbers of people as well as thousands of people who would have to flee Ukraine in the event of a military conflict,” the prime minister added.
However, Yevhen Perebyinis, the Ukrainian ambassador to the Czech Republic, said earlier that “he is convinced that even in the event of Russia’s military attack on their country, most Ukrainian citizens will remain in their homeland and defend their country from the aggressor.”
When it comes to the EU sanctions currently under negotiation, Fiala has not yet been able to provide more details.
“The first step in responding to the recognition of the independence of the separatist republics will probably be a smaller package of sanctions,” the prime minister said.
“We have to agree on sanctions that will not be only cosmetic, and Russia will feel them,” Fiala added.