Petr Pavel wins the Czech presidential election. Why it is important for Ukraine
The Czech presidential election has been won by Petr Pavel, a former general who actively supported Ukraine in its counteraction to the Russian invasion.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy congratulated Petr Pavel on his victory.
"I sincerely congratulate Petr Pavel on his convincing victory in the presidential elections in the Czech Republic," President Zelensky tweeted. - "I appreciate your support for Ukraine and our fight against Russian aggression. I look forward to close personal cooperation for the benefit of the peoples of Ukraine and the Czech Republic and in the interests of a united Europe."
The second round of the presidential election took place this Friday and Saturday. Retired general Petr Pavel, 61, and billionaire Andrej Babiš, 68, were running for the Czech presidency.
After all the votes were counted, Petr Pavel won the presidential election, Radio Prague reports. He received 58.32% of the vote, while Andrej Babiš received less than 41.68%.
According to the forecasts of the STEM and STEM/MARK agencies for CNN Prima News, Petr Pavel won with 58.01% of the vote.
While Pavel advocated the most active support for Ukraine with weapons, Babiš argued that peace should be achieved through negotiations with Putin.
After the first round of elections, they had almost the same number of votes, but all the candidates who finished in the top five supported the "pro-Ukrainian" Pavel.
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Who is Petr Pavel?
Petr Pavel devoted his entire life to the army and only entered politics a few years ago. After graduating from the Army Military Institute in 1983, he began his military career and commanded a special forces reconnaissance platoon. From 1985 until the Velvet Revolution of 1989, he was a member of the Communist Party.
"Joining the Communist Party was a mistake. But over the past 33 years, I have duly compensated for it," Petr Pavel said in an interview in September 2022.
After the Velvet Revolution, he had a brilliant career: in 1991 he joined military intelligence, in 1993 he played an important role in rescuing a group of French peacekeepers during the war in Croatia, in 2002 he became a brigadier general and commander of special forces, in 2012-2015 he headed the General Staff of the Czech Army. And in 2015-2018, he was the first representative of a post-communist country to head the NATO Military Committee.
Petr Pavel's wife is also a career military officer - Eva Pavlova is a retired lieutenant colonel.
Pavel's rival, billionaire Andrej Babiš, is from Slovakia. During the election, he emphasized that he was "not a general, but a diplomat."
Babiš entered politics in 2011. The media often compare him to Donald Trump or Silvio Berlusconi. He has a large fortune and influence on the media.
Already in 2013, his ANO (Action of Dissatisfied Citizens) party came in second in the elections, and in 2017-2021, Babiš headed the government.
Andrej Babiš: a billionaire populist who can lead the Czech Republic
Why the Czech elections are important for Ukraine
Although the executive power in the country is mainly vested in the government, which is determined by the results of parliamentary elections, the powers of the Czech president should not be underestimated.
For Ukraine, these elections were important because the fight was between a candidate who favored the defeat of Russia in the war, the supply of weapons to the Ukrainian armed forces, and Ukraine's accession to NATO, and a candidate who proposed a peace conference.
Babiš said that the Czech Republic no longer had any weapons for Ukraine and did not believe that it could join the alliance.
During the full-scale war, the Czech Republic proved to be one of Ukraine's best allies.
In addition to its support in the international arena and assistance with weapons, the Czech Republic (after Poland and Germany) ranks third among European countries in terms of the number of Ukrainian refugees who have found temporary shelter in the country.
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Andrej Babiš positioned himself as a supporter of peace talks and denied the need to continue supplying weapons to Ukraine, emphasizing: "we need weapons for the Czech army".
He was in favor of holding a peace conference on Ukraine, which would allegedly help end the war, and considered Ukraine's accession to NATO "unrealistic."
Petr Pavel, on the contrary, noted that Russia should clearly lose in Ukraine and at least the Ukrainian government should return the territories lost after February 24, and only then decide whether to negotiate.
"We all want Russia to be defeated in Ukraine, for its territorial integrity to be restored to its original borders, for Russia to compensate for the damage, and for war criminals to be brought to justice. The question is what can be achieved. I think that the restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity to at least the state before February 24, 2022 will be a success," Peter Pavel said.
He advocated supplying Ukraine with weapons and everything necessary to repel aggression.
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Zeman again: the main quotes of the re-elected Czech president about Ukraine
Current Czech President Milos Zeman is known to Ukrainians for his statements about the civil war in Ukraine, his condemnation of sanctions against Russia, and his 2017 proposal that Ukraine take "some kind of compensation for the annexed Crimea, either in financial form or in oil and gas."
However, when Putin launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Zeman admitted that he was wrong about Russia's intentions and called for "isolating the madmen."
Zeman supported Babiš in the election.