Russia said on Friday it had opened a criminal investigation after Czech authorities dismantled the statue of a Soviet military commander last week despite Moscow’s protests, escalating a rancorous diplomatic row over the issue.
The statue to Marshal Ivan Konev, who led Red Army forces during World War Two that drove Nazi troops from Czechoslovakia, is reviled by some in Prague as a symbol of the decades of Communist rule that followed the war.
But in Moscow Konev is lionised by authorities as a war hero, and the removal of his statue was cast as a diplomatic insult and part of what Russia sees as a dangerous attempt to rewrite history.
The statue to Konev, who also played a leading role in crushing the 1956 Hungarian uprising and building the Berlin Wall in 1961, was taken down on April 3 by municipal Prague authorities who said they planned to put it in a museum.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has appealed to Czech Defence Minister Lubomír Metnar to intercede, asking that the statue be sent back to Moscow.
Russia would be prepared to pay for transport or any other costs, the ministry said.
“We expect information from you about the place and time of its handing over,” Shoigu said in a defence ministry statement late on Thursday.
Read more: Reuters