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Czech Defense Minister asked to sell him a monument to Konev

A year ago, when Russia protested against the demolition of a monument to Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev in Prague, Russian authorities asked Czech Defense Minister Lubomir Metnar to hand over the statue to them. Metnar then replied that he could not give them the statue, because it belongs to the administration of Prague 6. However, Radiožurnál found out that Metnar himself had asked the leadership of Prague 6 to sell him the monument.

“The Ministry of Defense is interested in buying the statue,” Metnar wrote last December to the Mayor of Prague 6, Ondřej Kolář. He noted that the statue was dismantled in the context of a long-term deterioration in Czech-Russian relations. In the letter, the minister pointed out that the deterioration in relations is reflected in the way Russians look after Czech war graves in Russia. “In some cases, these are ready-made monuments, which, for example, have been waiting for their installation in the Samara region for many years,” Metnar wrote in a letter that was not previously known.

According to the press secretary of the Ministry of Defense Yana Zehmeisterova, the purchase of the statue of Konev was supposed to symbolize "a helping hand to continue communication with the Russian side in caring for war graves."

The question is what the ministry would do with the statue. The spokesman denies that the agency planned to transfer the monument to Russia. According to her, the ministry had a different intention: to move it from the depositary in Meshice in the Praha-Vostok area, where the Prague 6 City Hall had sent it, to the repository of the Institute of Military History.

“The ministry has proposed to transfer the monument to the VHÚ storage facility, despite the fact that it is not a military grave or memorial by law. By this we also confirm that we value the decisive role of the Red Army in the liberation of our country, ”explains Zehmeisterova.

Metnar did not want to comment on this topic, refused to give Radiožurnál an interview, did not respond to his mobile phone and SMS. However, in a December letter, he shared his thoughts with the mayor's office of Prague 6. He wrote that only a change of ownership could, in his opinion, ease tensions with Russia.

It is not known how much money the ministry wanted to spend on the purchase of the bronze statue. Experts estimate the cost of the monument at 13 million kroons. According to the press secretary, representatives of the city district immediately rejected the request of the minister.

“We are by no means considering the possibility of selling the statue, because the last word regarding the fate of the monument should be ours,” said Ondřej Kolář.

Minister Metnar was not the only one willing to buy the statue, the mayor's office also rejected other proposals from interested parties. “For example, a resident of Břeclav wrote to us that he has a military museum and wants to put a statue of the marshal in the garden. The Association of Young Russians from Kazan wrote to us – sell the statue, but we said that under no circumstances, ”says Kolář.

The monument will not remain in the Meshice warehouse forever. It will be moved to the 20th Century Memorial Museum, where a multimedia exhibition will be opened. In addition to the statue, the exhibition will contain accompanying information about who Konev was and how he influenced the history of Czechoslovakia.

The statue of Marshal Konev has repeatedly become a target for vandals. In 2019, unknown persons once again poured red paint over the monument. The Prague 6 administration refused to clean it, the monument was covered with scaffolding and tarpaulin, which were removed a few days later after a public outcry. As a result, in April 2020, the Prague 6 administration decided to remove the monument from the Interbrigade square. Russia reacted sharply to this decision. The head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, called this act outrageous and cynical, and the Russian authorities opened a criminal case against Ondřej Kolář and other Prague politicians.