‘They would have to take me to the gallows!’ — former Czech PM refuses to return Russian award, decries ‘cheap Russophobia’

Vaclav Klaus, A former Czech prime minister and president, speaks at a conference inaugurating a conservative new university in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, May 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
By Lucie Ctverakova
3 Min Read

Former Czech President Václav Klaus has insisted he would “have to be brought to the gallows” before he opted to return his Pushkin Medal awarded to him 15 years ago by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Klaus made the remarks during an interview with the Lidové noviny newspaper amid the strong criticism aimed at Czech singer Jaromír Nohavica for rejecting suggestions that she should return the medal due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Klaus received the medal in 2007 from Russian Ambassador Alexei Fedotov at Prague Castle. At the time, the Kremlin said that Klaus received the decoration for “bringing nations closer together and preserving their cultural heritage.”

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“I consider it childish to demonstratively return this medal,” Klaus told the news outlet. “That is something I would not lower myself to. I would have to be brought to the gallows to do something like that. And it’s not Putin’s medal. This is Pushkin’s medal,” he added.

“I reject these trivial antics with the decoration. In particular, I reject the cheap Russophobia that still exists today, and I reject the rash refuting of the Russian culture and all such things,” Klaus said.

The decoration of the Russian Federation, which Russian President Vladimir Putin awards for contributions in the field of culture, literature, humanities, and other arts, goes to both Russian citizens and foreigners.

“I received it as Pushkin’s medal,” the former Czech prime minister insisted. “Secondly, it was not invented by Putin but by his predecessor, Yeltsin. So it’s no Putin-created decoration or anything. Thirdly, it is not a medal of the Russian President but the Russian Federation,” noted Klaus.

The medal was first awarded by the former Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1999 to mark the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of Russian Romantic playwright Alexander Pushkin.

In the interview, Klaus also briefly discussed the effects of the war not just on Russia but also on the Czech Republic. According to him, for example, the costs of the stay of Ukrainian refugees in the Czech Republic will be much higher than the costs of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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