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Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Calls For Konev Statue In Prague To Be Reinstalled

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Czech officials should reinstall a controversial statue of Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev's statue in Prague after city officials removed it last month.

In an interview with the Russian news agency RBK published on May 15, Lavrov called the Czech explanation for the move "childish" and "a blatant violation" of the 1993 Russian-Czech agreement on friendly relations.

"I think it's a childish explanation, because the obligation to ensure the preservation of this monument lay on the shoulders of the Czech state," Lavrov said of the Czech explanation that it was a local Prague mayor who made the decision.

Relations between Prague and Moscow have been in a downward spiral in recent months amid what the Czechs see as Russia’s growing assertiveness over its interpretation of history.

At the center of the dispute is the April removal from a Prague district of a statue of Konev, whose armies completed Prague’s liberation on May 9, 1945. The district said the statue would be moved to a museum and a new monument honoring the city's liberation would take its place.

Russia has lashed out angrily over the move, and tensions were heightened further when Czech media reported that Moscow planned to poison the three Prague politicians in retaliation for supporting moves that have irritated Russia, including the removal of Konev's statue.

The three -- Prague's mayor and two of the city's district mayors -- along with members of their families have been under police protection since then.

Russia, accused of carrying out numerous attacks on perceived enemies abroad -- including the nerve-agent poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter -- has dismissed the reports and asserted that Moscow is the target of an ongoing smear campaign.

Earlier this week, Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek handed police a request from the Russian Embassy in Prague asking for protection for one its employees -- a Russian diplomat who was accused by Czech media of bringing highly toxic ricin to Prague as part of the alleged plot to poison the Prague city officials.

Konev's statue, which was erected by the communist Czechoslovak government in 1980, has long been controversial and has frequently been vandalized since the collapse of communism in 1989.

Soviet Marshal's Statue Reveals Monumental Rift In Czech Society
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WATCH: Soviet Marshal's Statue Reveals Monumental Rift In Czech Society

After the monument was dismantled in Prague on April 3, Russia's Investigative Committee threatened to open a criminal case against the Czech Republic, although Moscow has no legal jurisdiction in the EU member-state.

After the statue was taken down, unknown individuals attacked the Czech Embassy in Moscow and the consulate in Russia's second-largest city, St. Petersburg, throwing smoke bombs on the diplomatic mission's territories.

Moscow has also been accused of deploying agents from Russia's GRU military intelligence for numerous attempted assassinations of the Kremlin's opponents in other countries -- including Britain, Bulgaria, and Germany.

The Kremlin has denied involvement in all of the attacks and has dismissed reports about the latest alleged poisoning plot in Prague as part of a "disinformation campaign" aimed at discrediting Russia.

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