PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic banned Russian airlines from flying to the central European country from Saturday and is considering further steps against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine in addition to sanctions agreed by the European Union.
To help Ukraine, the Czech government will send fuel and blood and release 300 million crowns ($13.64 million) in aid to refugees, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on Friday.
Prague will also speed up its exit from two international banks set up in the Soviet era, while the Finance Ministry will analyze Russian-owned companies’ access to Czech public funds, Fiala said.
On Thursday, European Union leaders agreed to impose new economic sanctions on Moscow, joining the United States and Britain as they sought to punish President Vladimir Putin and his allies for attacking Russia’s neighbour.
Fiala said that memories of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia made the Czech stance tougher than that of some western European partners.
“We are a country which experienced the aggressive policy of Russia, or Soviet Union, and our unique historical experience makes us much more sensitive,” he said.
“We debated (at the EU summit) how far should we go with the sanctions, and the Czech Republic holds a tougher stance,” Fiala told a news conference.
The flight ban affects the Prague-Moscow and Prague-St Petersburg routes, Transport Minister Martin Kupka said.
Fiala said that residency permits will be reviewed in connection with the sanctions adopted by the EU.
The government in Prague announced on Thursday it would close two Russian consulates and stop issuing standard visas to Russians.
The Czech web domain registry blocked websites it said were spreading misinformation in connection with the invasion, the CZ.NIC group said, adding it acted upon recommendation from the government.
Russian missiles pounded Kyiv on Friday, families cowered in shelters and authorities told residents to prepare Molotov cocktails to defend Ukraine’s capital.
($1 = 21.9970 Czech crowns)
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)