Czech President Pavel meets Zelenskiy: A question of 'when' – not 'if' – Ukraine joins EU and NATO

Petr Pavel and Slovak counterpart Zuzana Čaputová arrived this morning in Ukraine for a state visit. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 28.04.2023 08:30:00 (updated on 28.04.2023) Reading time: 5 minutes

Czech President Petr Pavel and his Slovak counterpart Zuzana Čaputová arrived in Kyiv by train this morning shortly after many sites in Ukraine, including the capital city, became the target of a new series of Russian missile attacks on Thursday night.

They will meet their Ukrainian counterpart President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

This is Pavel's first trip to Ukraine in his capacity as head of state since the Russian invasion started last February. He was sworn in on March 9.

Michal Kubal, a Czech correspondent for Czech Television in Ukraine said it isn't clear whether the visits are directly related to these events.

ČT reports that the visit of the heads of state is accompanied by strict security measures; media are not allowed to broadcast the images in real-time so Russian forces cannot follow them. 

The same applies to the agenda for the visit, only the rough outlines of how of Pavel and Čaputová will spend their time in the war-hit country are known.

Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shot back at President Petr Pavel’s comments on the role of China in the Russia-Ukraine war.

In an interview with Politico released Tuesday, Pavel said that China “did not want” peace in Ukraine. He argued that China is benefiting from the war too much to play the role of a peacemaker. 

Lavrov said that Pavel’s comments “do not correspond to the activity of a normal political official.”

The Czech Press Office reports that Pavel agreed on the date of the trip with Zelenskiy shortly after his inauguration. Following the election, the two politicians agreed that the trip would take place together with Čaputová, who had previously visited Ukraine.

After arriving at the railway station in the city of Nemishaevo, which is located tens of kilometers northwest of Kyiv, the presidents were welcomed by the former Ukrainian ambassador to the Czech Republic, Jevhen Perebyjnis, and the Czech ambassador to Kyiv, Radek Matula, among others.

Several Czech politicians have visited Ukraine since its invasion by Russia. Prime Minister Petr Fiala went to Kyiv less than three weeks after the start of the Russian invasion, and in October part of the Czech government visited the country. Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Lipavský and Minister of Defense Jana Černochová were also in Ukraine.

In per capita terms, the Czech Republic is one of the most important supporters of the attacked country. Černochová said in February that last year the Ministry of Defense provided Ukraine with, among other things, 38 tanks, 55 infantry fighting vehicles, four pieces of aviation equipment, and 13 self-propelled howitzers. 

According to Fiala, the Czech government's military aid to Ukraine amounted to CZK 10 billion until the middle of February this year. According to national security adviser Tomáš Pojar, the Czech defense industry sent arms and equipment worth another CZK 30 billion.


11.15 (CEST time): Pavel has visited the Ukrainian town of Bucha, which was the site of mass genocide last year. He said that the West "must never let anything like this happen again." He also reiterated that the Czech Republic must not leave Ukrainians to fight alone against Russia.

He also said this morning that the destruction in Ukraine's cities clearly shows that Russia is targeting civilian objects deliberately and aiming to take innocent human lives.

Pavel said the devastated town reminded him of the destruction in other areas of protracted conflicts, such as Afghanistan or the former Yugoslavia.

In the last hour, Pavel together with Čaputová laid flowers at the 1914 Pledge of the Czech Party memorial in Sofia Square, Kyiv, which commemorates a Czech military group that had been based in Russia.

"The shameful attacks on some Ukrainian cities in the night, including Dnipro and Uman, which killed innocent civilians, remind us that we cannot afford to look away," said Čaputová.

12:00: The Czech and Slovak presidents have now laid flowers at the Memorial Wall of Fallen Defenders of Ukraine in Kyiv, to mark the soldiers killed in the current war. New names are added every day. The two statesmen also inspected the Russian military equipment nearby that the Ukrainians managed to destroy.

13:45: Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Lipavský said that the visit of Pavel and Čaputová to Ukraine proves that they are both world statesmen. The minister particularly appreciates the fact that now the government of Fiala and the president speak with the same, unified voice.

14:45: This afternoon Pavel met with Ukrainian counterpart Zelenskiy. The Czech president said he would push for Ukraine's EU accession talks to begin by the end of the year. "For us, Ukraine's membership in the EU and NATO is not a question of if, but when," Pavel said.

Zelenskiy assured Pavel and  Čaputová that Ukraine was “fully ready” to join the EU.

Pavel said this afternoon that Czechia has six key projects ready in which the country will soon be possible to transfer not only technology, but also production, to Ukraine.

Pavel mentioned Sellier & Bellot, Aero Vodochody, and Czechoslovak Group as examples of Czech arms and production companies that can supply resources to Ukraine.

Regarding direct military aid to Ukraine, Pavel mentioned that the production of light combat support aircraft for Ukraine is currently being planned. 

The presidents of the Czech Republic, Ukraine, and Slovakia all signed a declaration on cooperation and partnership in Kyiv today, too.

The Czech Republic is also moving towards opening a consulate general in the Dnipropetrovsk region for better cooperation.

16:00: Zelenskiy has told Pavel that Ukraine needs more supplies of military equipment: namely, aircraft, cannons, and armored vehicles. This is because Ukraine is preparing for a counterattack.

He also thanked Czechia and Slovakia for their support for the integration process of Ukrainian refugees and for the establishment of a tribunal to prosecute Russian crimes in Ukraine.

16:55: Zelenskiy has said that Ukrainian refugees in Czechia, Slovakia, and other countries must “find their own answer” to the question of whether they should return to Ukraine during or after the war – if at all. The president of Ukraine said that he envisages the return of all Ukrainians after their country’s victory in the war against Russia.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are more than 8.1 million Ukrainian refugees in Europe. It is estimated that over 300,000 currently live in Czechia.

For security reasons, the exact program of Pavel today is kept secret.

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