Accessibility links

Breaking News

No Occupancy: High Court Backs Czech Hotel Owner's Crimea Test For Russian Guests


"I get the impression that many people didn't learn history well and I helped to refresh their knowledge," says Czech hotelier Tomas Krcmar.

OSTRAVA, Czech Republic -- Despite death threats, Tomas Krcmar says he doesn't regret denying rooms at his four-star Moravian hotel to Russians unless they acknowledge that Crimea belongs to Ukraine.

"I reacted emotionally to the annexation of Crimea," he told RFE/RL, in a reference to Russia's covert invasion and grab of Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula in 2014. "When I made my decision [to ban Russians who didn't disclaim the annexation], I certainly did not expect that such a wave would arise...and never in my worst nightmare did I think this would last five years. But I'm glad [the controversy] happened."

Within a few weeks of putting a sign on the door barring all Russians from his four-story Brioni Boutique Hotel in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava in 2014, he was fined 50,000 crowns (about $2,170) by the Czech Trade Inspectorate for violating antidiscrimination laws.

He fought the verdict and a regional court agreed, canceling the fine.

Krcmar's original announcement placed on the main entrance of his hotel, barring Russian citizens from staying there
Krcmar's original announcement placed on the main entrance of his hotel, barring Russian citizens from staying there

​Then the Czech Supreme Administrative Court annulled that decision and returned the case to a regional court in Ostrava. In early 2018, that court ruled against Krcmar but reduced the fine to 5,000 crowns.

That didn't satisfy Krcmar.

"I don't agree to being fined, even if I only have to pay one crown," he told iDnes.cz.

Now, the Czech Constitutional Court has concluded that while turning away guests based on ethnicity or religion would violate the country's laws on discrimination, rejecting them based on nationality does not. The April 30 ruling noted that even the Czech government discriminates based on nationality when it decides which nationalities may enter the country without a visa, for example.

The high court also said the original ruling and fine had "affected [Krcmar's] freedom of political expression."

Krcmar finally feels vindicated.

The Brioni Boutique Hotel in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava
The Brioni Boutique Hotel in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava

"I consider this a success -- that the truth is on our side," he told RFE/RL.

But he said the latest verdict has brought a flurry of "negative reactions" that include serious personal threats.

"Some of the written reactions addressed to our hotel in recent days we had to give to police," he said. "They went too far. I got death threats. These were [from] Czechs, not Russians."

Krcmar -- one of whose grandparents was Ukrainian -- drew a connection between the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Russia's seizure of Crimea in 2014.

"The parallel is that you don't need to constantly step on the same rake," Krcmar said. "[Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin didn't invent anything new [in his annexation of Crimea]. I get the impression that many people didn't learn history well and I helped to refresh their knowledge."

The UN overwhelmingly passed a nonbinding resolution within days of the annexation affirming the "territorial integrity of Ukraine" and declaring a referendum organized by Russian occupation forces there invalid.

Krcmar changed his strategy within weeks of the original ban, subsequently allowing Russian guests if they signed a text stating that Crimea belongs to Ukraine.

Krcmar estimated that about 10 percent of his Russian guests objected to the demand and refused to stay in his hotel.​

The hotelier-cum-political activist is unhappy with what he sees as a lack of action on the part of the West toward actions by Moscow -- the latest being Putin's decision last week to offer passports to Ukrainians.

"Everything is clear here -- he continues to push forward his message," Krcmar said. "The reaction of neighboring states and the sanctions imposed by the European Union and other countries, of course, have some effect. But in general, everything is moving in a bad direction. The imperial policy of Russia doesn't change."

Written by Pete Baumgartner based on an interview by RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Oleksandra Vagner
XS
SM
MD
LG