János Széky, Radio Lemberg, 08.03.2019. Переклад українською тут
Róbert Ondrejcsák [on main photo], the State Secretary (deputy minister) at the Defense Ministry of Slovakia, wrote an article for the daily paper SME on 26 February about the Russian invasion of the Crimea. He wrote, "In February 2014, Russia started a military operation against Ukraine, first in the Crimea, occupying [it], then annexing it."
This is the truth, clearly and simply: this action by Russia defies international law, accepted by the UN General Assembly with a large majority in March 2014. The Slovak Republic is a sovereign state, a NATO member with a free press. The Russian Embassy in Bratislava, however, responded furiously.
They wrote in a note of protest, "Until such an official has a role in the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, the Slovakian society really cannot feel safe." As Ondrejcsák himself remarked later, this was an unprecedented case of intervention in Slovakia's internal affairs, attacking the nation's official representatives.
They also slammed Ondrejcsák as "either ourageously incompetent, or deliberately distorting facts," hurting good mutual relation between the Russian Federation and Slovakia. They also demanded the right to respond from SME, which editor-in-chief Beata Balogová refused, saying the response was misleading and contained false claims, and such personal attacks are simply not worthy of a diplomatic mission.
So why does the Russian Embassy in Bratislava act as if Slovakia broke some oath of allegiance? And how does the firm rejoinder come about?
You have to be familiar with Slovakian politics to understand this. The country is governed by the unlikely coalition of Smer (full English name is Direction – Social Democracy) with two junior partners, Slovak National Party (SNS; the name tells all) and the liberal conservative Hungarian-Slovak interethnic party Most-Híd (both words mean 'Bridge'), led by the ethnic Hungarian politician Béla Bugár.
Smer, which has been the strongest party in Slovakia, in and out of government since 2006, has been shaken by corruption scandals, which culminated in the murder of an investgative journalist early last year. Crises have also plagued the other two parties, but still, both Smer and Most-Híd stick to Euro-Atlantic norms, unlike SNS.
The Slovak National Party (SNS) boasts of its long history, dating from the 19th century, when Slovak nationalism was inseparable from Russophile Pan-Slavism. There have been ups and downs in Russian sympathy. Its current leader, Andrej Danko, who is also speaker of the Parliament, has been notorious for cuddling up to Putin. In November 2017 he made a speech at the Duma, saying "there can be no peace in the world without a strong Russia," while this February he also flew to Moscow, where he met his Russian counterpart Vyacheslav Volodin (who is on the EU sanctions list because of the annexation of the Crimea), then he flew to Sochi to have talks with Russia's MFA Sergei Lavrov.
Andrej Danko and Vyacheslav Volodin
The Minister of Defense, a retired general called Peter Gajdoš was nominated by Danko in his capacity of party chairman after the coalition parties had agreed upon how government positions would be shared; while the second man in the hierarchy, Ondrejcsák, an ethnic Hungarian, was a Most-Híd nominee.
Most-Híd is unique among parties outside Hungary with a large Magyar membership inasmuch as its leaders are not vassals of another great Putin sympathizer, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (by the way, SME's editor-in-chief Balogová, an internationally renowned independent journalist and the vice chair of the International Press Institute, is also ethnic Hungarian).
When the Russians attacked Ondrejcsák, it was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which defended him firmly, while the Minstry of Defense itself said his words had "expressed only his personal and political position in the name of the Most-Híd party." So the reason the Russian response was so self-confident was that they thought of the Slovakian Ministry of Defense as their own territory; but they did not take into account the pluralistic political scene and press freedom. A typical Russian mistake.