During an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFA) released today, Pavel told the organization’s Ukrainian service that as long as the war in Ukraine continues, Western powers should keep a close eye on Russian citizens living abroad. The Czech leader said the West should be monitoring Russians “much more.”
“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. “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,” he added, referring to Japanese internment camps in the U.S.
When asked to clarify what he meant by the term “monitoring,” Pavel said “being under the scrutiny of security services.” The president took a hard stand, saying the surveillance is “simply a cost of war,” but a spokesman later clarified that he did not mean creating internment camps for Russian citizens.
During the interview, Pavel said he is sympathetic to those who have fled Russia since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, but said, “when there is an ongoing war, the security measures related to Russian nationals should be stricter than in normal times,” even in cases in which the Russian citizen doesn’t support the war.
Since Russia invaded, hundreds of thousands of Russians have fled the country, with many attempting to avoid being drafted into the war. But according to data reviewed by The Washington Post, as many as one million Russians may have fled since the invasion.
As for the reason these Russians should be monitored by the West, Pavel’s office explained to RFA that the majority of Russians support the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and civilian attacks. “Given those circumstances, it would be an utter failure of our own security services and a threat to the security of our own citizens if these [security] services did not pay heightened attention to the Russian community living in our country,” the spokeswoman said, clarifying she was referring to Russians who present “risk factors.”
Pavel also expressed his support for Ukraine joining both NATO and the European Union in the interview.
“I strongly believe that all the leaders will understand that having Ukraine on board — both in NATO and EU — is probably the only guarantee [of] how to ensure stability in this region, how to make both NATO and EU stronger, and how to keep Russia and its aggressive policies at bay,” he said.
Pavel was elected in January and entered office in early March. As head of state, his role is largely ceremonial, though he does have some influence, POLITICO notes.