Disinfo: Removal of Soviet Marshal Konev's statue in Prague is immoral and illegal

Summary

The monument to the Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev, whose troops liberated the Czech capital from the Nazis in 1945, was dismantled in Prague. The Marshal was not defeated in Prague, but he was stabbed in the back 75 years later – dismantled during an epidemic when it is forbidden to gather in groups of more than two, and everyone who could protest is at home. The main message is here: in 1968, Konev allegedly participated in the preparation of the invasion of Czechoslovakia. This myth has been repeatedly debunked by Russian historians and representatives of the Ministry of Defense. The agreement on cooperation between Russia and the Czech Republic contains a clause on obligations to protect and care for military monuments. Russian diplomats demanded that their Czech colleagues comply with this agreement and now the Czech Foreign Ministry is obliged to provide explanations.

Disproof

This is a recurring disinformation narrative about the statue of Marshall Konev in Prague. It is also consistent with common pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives about Russophobia and the supposedly hostile anti-Russian intentions of the West, based on which Russia can cast itself as the victim. In the dispute over the statue, Russia has argued that under the Czech-Russian mutual agreement of 1993, the Czech Republic is obliged to leave the statue in place on Prague's Interbrigade Square. However, this is an intentionally false and misleading interpretation of the terms of the agreement (full text available here). The monument is municipal property, belonging to city district Prague 6, and the 1993 agreement therefore does not apply to this case. The statue of Konev, erected in 1980, is not a military grave or memorial and therefore it was not protected by international treaties. The democratically elected municipal council of Prague 6 voted for the removal of the statue. Basing on the protocol of the Politbureau's assembly, Czech historians established that on 8-14 May 1968, Konev chaired the Soviet military delegation sent to Prague to prepare the military invasion of Czechoslovakia. Konev was also chief of the Soviet troops in East Germany during the Berlin wall crisis in 1961. In other words, the Red Army brought not only liberation but also terror to Czech Republic, as the mayor of Prague 6, Ondřej Kolář reminded. Kolář said that he respects the role of Konev-led forces in liberating Prague, and the sacrifice of Soviet armies liberating Europe from Nazism. "We will strive for an art competition for a memorial to the liberators of Prague at the end of World War Two instead of the marshal Konev statue," he said before the vote. "At the same time we will secure a dignified - and let me stress that, dignified - placement of this art piece (Konev) in a memorial institution. I think this is a consensual solution we have called for a number of years.". The removal of the statue was planned for April 2020 in advance and is not due to coronavirus quarantine. The monument to Marshall Konev was erected in 1980 during the "normalisation" period in communist Czechoslovakia. The leadership of Prague's Municipal District 6, which retains legal ownership of the statue, has voted to move the monument to a museum and replace it with a memorial commemorating Soviet sacrifices in the fight against Hitler in general, and the liberation of Prague in particular. More information available here.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 191
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 05/04/2020
  • Outlet language(s) Russian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: Czech Republic, Russia
  • Keywords: World War 2, Eastern Europe
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Disproof

An unfounded conspiracy theory, sharing a recurrent pro-Kremlin narrative about "secret elites" controlling world leaders. When in March 11, 2020 the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, there were more than 118 thousand confirmed coronavirus cases in 114 countries. An updated situation report from WHO on the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. See more examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation about the coronavirus here.

The EU left Italy face to face with an invisible and terrible enemy

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Disproof

Speculative claim about "abandoned Italy" and that the EU left Italy alone to fight coronavirus. This claim exploits the coronavirus pandemic to push a recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the West's crumbling solidarity. While Russia has sent a military team to Italy, there are numerous examples of solidarity in the Western world, including among the EU and individual Member States as follows.

The European Commission has approved a €50 million Italian aid scheme to support the production and supply of medical devices, as well as to help Italy provide the necessary medical treatment to those infected. On March 18th, the European Union also received a Chinese aid package, including masks and 50,000 testing kits that were fully allocated to Italy, as Rome faced the most urgent needs among member states in the coronavirus crisis. On March 13th, the European Union proposed a Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, envisaging EUR 835 million for Italy. On March 26th, the European Parliament unanimously approved the initiative.

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This confirms what everybody is thinking: this is it, the European Union is finished. Germany can help its people and is doing that. Italy cannot help its own people and is not helping it. It’s over, there is no European Union.

Disproof

This claim exploits the coronavirus pandemic to push a recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the EU's alleged imminent collapse. One of the main pro-Kremlin narratives relating to the pandemic is that the EU is failing to cope with the COVID-19 crisis and, as a result, is disintegrating, together with the border-free Schengen area. In particular, this narrative of failure and lack of EU solidarity is trending after the delivery of Russian aid to Italy. This narrative also aims to pit EU member states against each other in an attempt to undermine European solidarity, another recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation tactic. The European Commission is coordinating a common European response to the COVID-19 crisis and is supporting Member States in tackling the pandemic and in mitigating its economic consequences. To cushion the blow to people’s livelihoods and the economy, the European Commission has adopted a comprehensive economic response to the outbreak, applied the full flexibility of the EU's fiscal rules, has revised its State Aid rules and proposed to set up a EUR 37 billion Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative to provide liquidity to small businesses and the health care sector. The Commission is further increasing its response by proposing to set up a €100 billion solidarity instrument to help workers keep their incomes and businesses stay afloat, called SURE. It is also proposing to redirect all available structural funds to the response to the coronavirus. To support scientific research into COVID-19, the European Commission earmarked 47,5 million EUR for shortlisted research projects that can improve epidemiology and public health, including preparedness and response to outbreaks. The EU also created the first ever stockpile of medical equipment. EU Member States are helping each other in this crisis; for example, German hospitals have offered to treat critical coronavirus patients from France as well as taking in patients from Italy and the Czech Republic has sent masks to Italy. Read more about the EU's response here and here. Read similar cases claiming that the EU has collapsed as a result of the pandemic that the coronavirus epidemic marks the beginning of an era of crisis for pan-European identity and solidarity and that the COVID outbreak means the end of Europe.