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Czech minority in Ukraine fears Russian aggression

Czechs have lived in Ukraine for more than 150 years and have not encountered problems because of their nationality, said the head of the Czech National Council, Professor Lyudmyla Mukhina, in response to the statement by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs claiming that rights of ethnic minorities, including the Czechs, are being violated in Ukraine.

Mukhina, who is well versed in the history of Czechs in the Volyn region in Ukraine, discussed the position of the Czech minority in an interview with Radio Svoboda on March 28.

“These years have been marked by peace and harmony between Ukrainians and Czechs. We have never had any major conflicts and we don’t have them now,” she insisted.

Mukhina also reported that national minorities in Ukraine held a meeting recently and drew up official letters stressing that “the aggression in Crimea must not be the normal position of one country — Russia — toward another — Ukraine, and that is why we all condemn it.”

According to Mukhina, the letters were signed by representatives of the national minorities in Ukraine with the exception of the Russians and were sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. “This is the official position of the national minorities of Ukraine,” she said.

According to Mukhina, “right now we’re living at a time when all of us, the citizens of Ukraine, are afraid of aggression from Russia.”

Some 40 families of Volyn Czechs living in the Zhytomyr Oblast, who are concerned about rising tensions in Ukraine caused by Russian actions, have applied to the Czech government for help in returning home.

In response, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a special mission to Volyn to study the situation. The mission concluded that “there are no threats from their Ukrainian compatriots toward the Czech minority.” However, representatives of the 40 families still intend to ask for help from the Czech government.

In the late 1860s more than 15,000 Czechs migrated from Austria-Hungary to what was then tsarist Russia, with most of them settling in Volyn. Today some 20,000 Czechs reside in Ukraine.


Translated by Anna Mostovych

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