18:18 Aug. 30, 2016
Prague says it doesn't recognize Donetsk People's Republic and won't have any diplomatic relations with it.
The article below is a translation of the investigative report authored by Yevropeyska Pravda's editor-in-chief Serhiy Sydorenko
On Thursday, September 1 the separatists of the puppet Donetsk People's Republic (DPR),controlling part of Donetsk region which is considered a terrorist organization within Ukraine, will have a ‘benefit' in Europe.
On this day, the opening of the DPR representational office in Czechia will be announced. Donetsk authorities call it their first official foreign representation.
Although this ‘diplomatic mission' is fake, generally there are more lies surrounding the event than there is truth, the consequences of September 1st may be far reaching, many being unpleasant ones.
Ukraine and the Czech Republic can still emerge victorious from this information battle. But, they may lose as well. And the fact that the Ukrainian diplomacy in recent years is not working in the Czech direction contributes to this process.
The Ukrainian ‘Yevropeyska Pravda' online edition clarifies what is actually happening in Czechia and who is involved in the recent developments.
Self-proclaimed "honorary consul of DPR" (In the middle; Photo by Yevropeyska pravda)
The diplomatic victory of the ‘young republic' was announced last week by the dnr-news website.
"On September 1st, the DPR representation office in the Czech Republic will be inaugurated in the city of Ostrava. DPR representation office will be the first officially registered mission of our republic in the European Union," said the statement on the website.
The name of the head of the ‘diplomatic mission' is not specified, but there is a photo. This lady is well-known for those, who follow the developments in Ukrainian-Czech relations. This is Nela Liskova, the resident of Ostrava.
Her Donetsk photos are easily found online, some of the images show her taking part in the meetings of separatist leaders. Liskova confirmed on her Facebook page that she will be introduced as a ‘consul' on Thursday.
Formally, foreign citizens (for example, Czechs) may indeed hold the position of "honorary consul". But this is not the case.
"According to our information, what some call a ‘diplomacy center or a representative office' of the self-proclaimed DPR, is just a union, registered in Ostrava. It cannot be considered a diplomatic office of a country. The Czech MFA will not have any relations with this center," the message said.
"The self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic cannot have an accredited diplomatic mission in the Czech Republic, because Prague doesn't recognize its existence," the Czech MFA stressed.
The Ministry also stated it was looking into the affairs of Nela Liskova, and her activities as the ‘honorary consul.'
Self-proclaimed "honorary consul of DPR" has portraits with guns (Photo by Yevropeyska pravda)
Fake Diplomatic Mission
But one should expect something to happen on September 1. The supporters of the Donetsk separatists will really hold a presentation in Ostrava. The center they will inaugurate, is already registered.
There is information on the website of the Ministry of Justice about the organization called "Zastupitelské centrum DNR", which translates as "representative center of the DPR" The organization was registered in June this year, its statutory objective will be to develop the cooperation of the Czech Republic and DPR in the fields of economy, trade and culture."
Elsewhere the name is translated as "DPR diplomatic center." This is, unfortunately a Google translate error, but it adds a surprising "weight" to the organization.
In reality, this is not a diplomatic mission, but a public organization.
The fake ‘honorary consulate' has three founders – the aforementioned Nela Liskova, plus two more persons: Radim Hrubes and Petr Viktoryn. Are all citizens of Czechia.
Protocol of constituent assembly of the fake "honorary consulate of DPR" (Photo by Yevropeyska pravda)
"Technically, this is the same as if I founded the organization titled ‘Honorary consulate of Alfa Centauri aliens'. In other words, no legal consequences are implied here," jokes Czech journalist Ondřej Soukup.
Respectability of the ‘honorary consulate' became another joke. Its address is mentioned in the statutory papers registered with the Czech Justice Ministry.
The organization which aims to represent the interests of DPR is registered in a shabby building on the outskirts of Ostrava.
The Building of the fake "DPR consulate" (Photo by Google Streetview)
Of course, this building will not be shown to journalists. The unveiling ceremony will be held at the Mercure Hotel in the city centre.
One may laugh at it, but the September 1st events could turn out to be more significant, than just a meeting of a fringe group.
Organizers did their best to invite as many representatives of top political circles as possible.
Invitation letters were even received by those who are definitely not going to participate in the separatist performance. Marek Ženíšek, the Czech MP and one of the Karel Schwarzenberg's close allies, appears on the list.
The invitation was signed by the ‘honorary consul' of the DPR Nela Liskova.
"The Czech Republic supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the existence of such ‘honorary consulates' is a plain nonsense, even if they hide behind the mask of an NGO," Zenísek said.
In a Facebook debate, the deputy added that he "fully agreed" with the idea that the story harms Czechia, creates an image of a "country with a certain schizophrenia tendencies" and "destroys international confidence."
Unfortunately, not all the country's lawmakers share his opinion.
There are many pro-Russian politicians in the Czech political elite, even President Milos Zeman. The Communist faction is the third largest in the Czech parliament. That is why the chances are high that the inauguration of ‘DPR Consulate' will be held in the presence of the politicians at national level.
What is more important is that the event will be attended by the representatives of ‘Donetsk authorities'
At least, this is stated in the invitations received by MPs.
Invitation for the opening ceremony of the fake "consulate" (Photo by Marek Zenísek)
Who exactly will represent the separatists during this ceremony, is not known. Yevropeyska Pravda's sources close to the Czech Foreign Ministry, suggested that it would be "the unknown person, will be the difficult factor."
That is why no one is sure that the official Prague security can or will prevent this person from being able to appear.
Moreover, currently there is no certainty whether the Czech authorities intend to detain the person, even if they find him/her. Even the activists supporting Ukraine do not believe that Prague has to stop activity of Nela Liskova.
"If she does not break the law, the Czech authorities cannot do anything . If a criminal attends this event, he can be arrested and extradited to Ukraine, but generally the ‘consulate' is a legitimate public formation," said Jakub Janda, the Deputy Director of the Czech think-tank Evropské hodnoty (European values).
"The Czech Republic may perhaps refuse to issue visas for those travelling to the event, or detain those who are on the wanted list. But if some Horlivka poetess comes and speaks about the "horrible Kiev junta "- she has right to do it," agrees Ondrej Soukup.
Some Czech politicians have another position. Zenisek demands to detain the representatives of DPR once they appear in public.
Unfortunately, the first stance is more popular among Czech politicians. Unfortunately, this is not surprising.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has failed its job in the Czech direction. Yevropeyska Pravda has repeatedly written about the quality of Ukrainian Embassy's work in the Czech Republic, which harmed bilateral relations rather than supported them.
A key reason for this is that the Embassy was led by the political appointee Borys Zaychuk, who got the post through pulling strings.
His brother, Valentyn Zaychuk, has long headed the secretariat of the Verkhovna Rada. Now the two brothers have finally resigned, but it will take time to sort out the political consequences.
The only aspect we have not covered yet is "who is financing the campaign around the opening of the ‘DPR consulate?"
Yevropeyska Pravda currently has no documents that would prove the Russian source of funding, although all the observers speak of it as a fait accompli.
In fact, the price of creating a scandal is very modest. It is even cheaper to create a public organization (the registered office was shown above).
By the way, the organizers decided to minimize the risks - apparently, they feared that the "DPR Representation Center" will be closed because of its name, that is why another NGO was registered. It was called "Representation Centre of Donetsk region"
To rent a hall for the presentation is also not that costly. It is not known what service package is ordered at Mercure, but the price of conference rooms there starts from only 150 euros.
Someone has to fund other expenses such as Liskova's salary, her trips to the Donbas, and the visits of the ‘Donetsk authorities' to the Czech Republic.
"Ms Liskova is a board member of "Czech National Militia"- an extremist paramilitary group associated with radical right-wing National Democracy party, which has clear ties with Russia," explains Jakub Janda.
The recent report of the Czech Interior Ministry confirms that even the official authorities call this group extremist.
"They are several hundred people across the Czech Republic, with varying degrees of adequacy. The classic mix of conspiracy, anti-Americanism and pro-Russian stance.
They emerged on the anti-Islamic wave and began to form branches throughout Czechia. Our newspaper recently did an investigation and found that there is only a couple of hundred of them who meet once a month," said Ondrej Suokup.
However, even Czech investigative journalists do not have the irrefutable evidence that these ‘activists' are financed by Russia.
And this, in fact, does not matter. The most important thing now is to stop openly unfriendly actions and to do everything possible to prevent anti-Ukrainian sentiments from gaining popularity in the Czech Republic.
And here we cannot go without appointing a professional Czech-speaking ambassador, and the full rotation of the entire staff of the Ukrainian Embassy in the Czech Republic.