Czech leader will attend Putin’s VE Day commemorations but will also honor the Czechs that fought WITH the Nazi’s against the USSR

General Andrei Vlasov, leader of the Nazi-allied Russian Liberation Army

Russia is planning three days of VE Day commemorations this year. However the plans have been thwarted by a series of diplomatic issues.

Putin originally invited a wide range of heads of state to attend a huge military parade on the 9th May in Red Square. However, many have declined the invitation or boycotted the event leaving Putin with only a handful of dignitaries to watch the parade with, and these aren’t the most desired audience.

One of the leaders attending is Czech president Milos Zeman. However, to the dismay of the Russians, he has committed to commemorate all of the Russian soldiers who fought in World War Two, even those who collaborated with the Nazis.

The Russian Liberation Army (RLA) was a small band of Soviet fighters who were captured by the Nazis and held as prisoners of war. But in order to escape the terrible conditions and treatment they made an agreement to join the Nazis and fight with them.

The RLA was led by General Andrei Vlasov and he negotiated the deal with the Nazis in 1944. Once the tide turned the group defected to the Allied forces when the war was near to an end.

Milos Zeman, the Czech president, said he intended to pay tribute to the soldiers of the Russian Liberation Army [Via]

At the time the RLA was seen by its own country as a group of traitors. Stalin and the Soviet Union had a very severe and suspicious view of prisoners of war or any defectors, treating them all as traitors. They were often tortured and sent to the gulags.

In 2001 there was a call for the group to be rehabilitated and for their names to be cleared of any wrongdoing. But the Russian court refused the appeal. So in Russia today they are still viewed as traitors.

Milos Zeman’s honouring of the men is just another embarrassment to the Russians as their VE Day commemoration near.

Near to the end of the war, when the RLA was fighting with the Allied forces, they came to the aid of the Czechoslovakian resistance who were still in a ferocious fight to take back Prague from the Germans, The Telegraph reports.

The RLA held off attacks by the SS and saved Prague from a fate a lot worse than it was.

Mr Zeman says he wants to attend the event to honour all of the citizens of the Soviet Union who took part in the war.

When World War Two ended the Soviet authorities killed many of the RLA, others were sent to the gulags. Vlasov, their leader was exposed to severe torture and was then executed.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE