Czech Petition Asks President to Cancel Yanukovych Trip

Hundreds of Czechs are calling on President Milos Zeman to cancel a visit to Prague by his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, after massive street protests were marred by violence in the former Soviet republic.

Film maker Jiri Menzel, singer Dan Barta and former Czech Green Party leader Martin Bursik were among those who added their names to a petition being circulated on the Internet and publicized in local media. The exact date of Yanukovych’s trip this year to the Prague Castle has not been set yet.

Ukraine’s opposition is seeking a parliamentary vote today on curbing Yanukovych’s powers as a step toward resolving the country’s political crisis. The country has been rattled by the biggest anti-government protests since gaining independence in 1991, with seven demonstrators killed in clashes. While violence receded after parliament repealed anti-protest laws and the prime minister resigned last week, street rallies continued and the opposition has refused to take cabinet posts.

“We call on President Milos Zeman to cancel the planned visit without delay,” said the petition, dated Jan. 28. Zeman should also take “maximum efforts” to help convince his counterpart to help “Ukraine return to democratic order. One way to do that would be calling an early presidential election.”

Zeman has no plans to cancel the visit, his spokesman Jiri Ovcacek told today’s edition of Mlada Fronta Dnes newspaper.

“Mr. President invited Viktor Yanukovych during his October Ukraine visit,” he said. “We prefer dialogue, meaning dialogue with all parties.”

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