Vladimir Putin’s popularity in the Czech Republic has surged and could now be higher than that of Angela Merkel, who has seen steadily falling ratings, German mass media report, referring to data from recent opinion polls.
Die Welt newspaper reported that just a year ago more than 70 percent of Czechs said they trusted the German chancellor. But a recent poll conducted in connection with Merkel’s ongoing visit to the republic showed that the level of support has plunged to just 18 percent.
The outlet noted that Czechs’ attitude to Russian President Vladimir Putin could now be better than towards Merkel.
Die Welt writes that this is surprising given the recent history of Russian-Czech relations and the forthcoming anniversary of the events of the so-called Prague Spring– the Soviet invasion in then-Czechoslovakia in 1968 that stopped an attempt to bring about liberal reforms.
Die Welt said the main reason for the German leader’s declining popularity could lie in Merkel’s “hospitality policy” leading to an influx of refugees to Europe from the Middle East and Africa. Another reason could be in the rhetoric used by Czech President Milos Zeman, who has relentlessly pointed out that the migration policy pursued by Germany and the EU as a whole is a mistake.
Earlier this week, the Czech president told a group of diplomats that he was against the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by Western nations, adding that the experience of the US embargo on Cuba had proved that such measures are ineffective.
In early July this year, Zeman said he wanted his nation to hold a referendum on EU and NATO membership, adding that he personally did not support an EU exit but considered it important for the people to have a say on the issue.
In 2014, the Czech president urged the EU to accept the Crimean Republic’s accession into the Russian Federation, saying that no one should expect the region’s return to Ukraine in the foreseeable future.