Czech President 'Won't Shake Kim Jong-un's Hand'

      April 08, 2015 12:40

      Milos Zeman /Newsis

      Czech President Milos Zeman has declared that he will not shake hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un if he encounters him at celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Moscow.

      The president has accepted an invitation to attend an official ceremony in Moscow on May 9.

      Zeman did not elaborate, but his remark was seen as an effort to placate mounting criticism he faces both at home and abroad for accepting the invitation.

      Many Western countries are boycotting the celebrations because of Russia's invasion of the Crimea.

      Russian President Vladimir Putin had hoped to put on a massive show for world leaders, but U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other have already said they are staying home.

      Zeman, who has also criticized economic sanctions against Russia by the West and is seen as pro-Russian, is the only head of state in the EU to attend.

      His decision stirred up protests in and outside his country. Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky has criticized it, and U.S. Ambassador to Prague Andrew Schapiro said Zeman's decision was "short-sighted," prompting Zeman to retort that Schapiro would no longer be welcome at his official residence.

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