bne IntelliNews -
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico confirmed on April 27 that he will go to Moscow on May 9 for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. However, in the face of controversy surrounding the events, like Czech President Milos Zeman he will skip the military parade.
The Slovak PM has been dodging questions on whether he will attend the Russian ceremony for weeks. However, his office now says he will take part in commemorative events in Poland on May 8 and then head to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Kyiv where he will jointly lay wreaths with Zeman. He will then travel to Moscow on May 9 to participate in commemorative ceremonies but will miss the main event: the military parade. The PM's circular route to also take in the Polish and Ukrainian events is a clear attempt to defend himself against accusations of siding with Russia.
Zeman's visit to Russia has caused rows with the US and strong criticism at home. The Czech president did Fico no favours in early April when he said he would meet the Slovak leader instead of viewing the military parade, leaking the fact that Fico would be heading to Moscow before it had been officially announced.
Slovak President Andrej Kiska has announced, in a strongly worded statement in March, that he will turn down the invitation.
Zeman is the only EU head of state to have confirmed he will attend an event that many world leaders - including US President Barack Obama and Germany's Angela Merkel - have said they will steer clear of because of Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in East Ukraine.
Russia has invited 68 heads of state to participate in the celebrations. Among those who have confirmed they will attend are the Chinese, Indian, South African, Vietnamese, and North Korean leaders.
While Fico's government has shown stronger support for the EU line on the Ukraine crisis in recent months - in particular by sending gas to Kyiv - Fico has tried to maintain friendly relations with Moscow.
In an interview with Slovak daily Hospodarske Noviny, Fico said he does not feel guilty about his decision to travel to Moscow. "This is history, a historical fact and I view this step as a natural one," the PM said regarding the commemoration of Russian forces large role in defeating Nazi Germany.
Hungary is seen as one of Moscow's staunchest supporters these days, but President Janos Ader announced on April 27 that he will not attend the Victory Day Parade in Moscow. Budapest's ambassador to Moscow will attend the Victory Day celebrations instead, the MTI state news wire reported. The president's decision is “in line with the European Commission’s recommendation,” his office noted.
Spiky PM Viktor Orban, who has been busy antagonizing Washington and Brussels by cementing closer relations with Vladimir Putin recently, has also said he does not plan to travel to Moscow.
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