Czech President Petr Pavel says Russian citizens living abroad should be put under “strict surveillance” by intelligence services in their host countries.
“All Russians living in Western countries should be monitored much more than in the past because they are citizens of a nation that leads an aggressive war,” Pavel said in an interview with Radio Free Europe released Thursday.
“I can be sorry for these people, but at the same time when we look back, when the Second World War started, all the Japanese population living in the United States were under a strict monitoring regime as well,” said the Czech president. “That’s simply a cost of war.”
Asked what he implied by “monitoring,” Pavel said he meant “being under the scrutiny of the security services.”
During World War II, about 120,000 people of Japanese descent — most of whom were American citizens, and half of them children — were forcibly put in internment camps following the December 1941 Pearl Harbor attack by Japanese forces. The camps were surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by U.S. soldiers. Then-President Ronald Reagan formally apologized over the camps back in 1988.
U.S. President Joe Biden said in February it was “one of the most shameful periods in American history.”
Russian citizens have fled their country by the hundreds of thousands since the start of the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 — including to avoid being drafted into the Russian army. According to Statista, there were about 6.6 million Russians living in Europe and Northern America in 2020.
The pro-Western Czech president, who has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion, used to be a NATO general — a highly unusual background for a European leader.
He was elected in January, after running as an independent, defeating former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš with 58 percent of the vote.
Pavel’s position is largely ceremonial but, as the Czech head of state, he can still exert influence on the direction of the country, as previous Czech leaders have done in the past.
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