10:43 Sep. 2, 2016
Czech Foreign Ministry vowed that the self-declared representative office would be shut down
The flag of Russia-backed separatists from Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region fluttered from an ornate, two-story building in the city of Ostrava on the Czech Republic's eastern fringes on September 1, as the separatists opened what they call their first official office on EU soil, RFE/RL reports.
Amid protests and vows by authorities to shut down the center, a Czech far-right activist said the office is aimed at rebuilding ties between Ostrava and Donetsk, both crumbling industrial centers that were once sister cities.
"We want to aid and coordinate communication between the people of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Czech Republic," said Nela Liskova, a member of the xenophobic National Militia movement, referring to the separatist group in eastern Ukraine.
Liskova addressed a cramped conference room packed with a few dozen reporters and a handful of supporters -- including a few allegedly from Donetsk. A self-described "honorary consul," she said she is disgusted with her government's support for what she calls the "junta" in Kyiv -- standard Kremlin shorthand for the pro-Western government of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
Until now Donetsk People's Republic has been recognized as an independent state only by South Ossetia, a breakaway region of Georgia that itself is recognized only by Moscow and a handful of other countries.
But any kind of recognition by the EU is wishful thinking at best. Brussels has sanctioned several separatists in eastern Ukraine, including Oleksandr Zakharchenko, the self-styled leader in Donetsk, as well as officials in Moscow over Russian backing for the separatists.
In the Czech Republic, President Milos Zeman has departed from the common EU line on Ukraine and criticized sanctions against Moscow. But he has not offered the separatists in eastern Ukraine any public support.
The Czech Embassy in Kyiv said in an August 29 statement that "the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic cannot have an accredited representative office in the Czech Republic because the Czech Republic does not recognize its existence."
Read the full report here