President Milos Zeman has “closed the door” of Prague Castle to the U.S. ambassador following comments perceived as critical of the Czech’s decision to attend a World War Two commemoration in Moscow, according to local media reports on Sunday.
European Union leaders are boycotting the ceremony in May over Russia’s role in the Ukraine conflict but Zeman — who has frequently departed from the EU line — has said he would attend.
“I can’t imagine the Czech ambassador in Washington would give advice to the American president where to travel,” Zeman told news portal Parlamentni Listy. “I won’t let any ambassador have a say about my foreign travels.”
“Ambassador (Andrew) Schapiro has the door to the castle closed.”
A presidential spokesman told local media that Schapiro could still attend social events at Prague Castle, the official residence of the Czech president.
Schapiro told Czech television earlier this week it would be “awkward” should Zeman attend the ceremony as the only statesmen from an EU country.
Zeman, a former prime minister, has frequently departed from the common EU line onUkraine and criticized sanctions against Moscow. The government, which is responsible for foreign policy, however, has held the EU line fully.
The Czech presidency is largely a ceremonial role but Zeman – who was the first president directly elected when he took office in 2013 – is outspoken on his views on both domestic and foreign policy.
Even when his country was still known as Czechoslovakia he departed from the mailinstream communist line . In 1968, during the Prague Spring, he became a member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia; however, he was expelled in 1970, due to his disagreement with the Russian-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Located in the Hradčany district of Prague and dating back to the ninth century, the Prague castle has been a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it. The Guinness Book of Records lists Prague Castle as the largest ancient castle in the world. It occupies an area of almost 70,000 square meters ( 753 ,000 sq.ft), at about 570 meters in length and an average of about 130 meters wide.