Czech president expresses opposition to Russian intervention in Ukraine

Czech President Miloš Zeman has expressed opposition to Russia intervening in Ukraine; in a statement issued through his spokesman on Saturday, the president suggested military intervention would create a gulf that would take more than a generation to bridge. Mr Zeman was reacting to rising tensions in Crimea, where Russian forces are stationed or being boosted. He made clear he could draw on concrete experience, the invasion of former Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led troops in 1968. On Saturday, President Vladimir Putin requested - and received - approval from Russia's upper house to use troops on the peninsula until the 'normalisation' of the political situation in Ukraine. Mr Putin claimed that such a move was to protect the Russian-speaking population. Ukraine's new leadership has called Russia's behaviour an attempt to provoke an armed conflict.

The Czech Foreign Ministry reacted on Saturday by saying that Ukraine's territorial integrity as well as sovereignty needed to remain untouched and intact. The foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, is to meet with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka to discuss developments on Monday.