PRAGUE (AP) — Slovakia’s new prime minister, Robert Fico, said on Friday he considers the war between Ukraine and Russia a frozen conflict that cannot be solved by sending arms to the Ukrainian armed forces.
Fico ended his country’s military aid for Ukraine after his new government was sworn in on Oct. 25.
After meeting his Czech counterpart, Petr Fiala, in Prague on Friday, he said he would prefer the Russian and Ukrainian sides sit at a negotiation table. He didn’t say how to achieve that.
Fico traveled to Prague for his first bilateral foreign trip. The leaders of the two countries that once formed Czechoslovakia traditionally visit each other after they get elected before visiting any other heads of state. They have remained close to each since after Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.
The Czech Republic, or Czechia, has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine and has been giving it heavy weapons and other arms.
“There’s no doubt we have different views of some issues,” Fiala said.
Fico said he respected the Czech position and repeated Slovakia was ready to provide humanitarian and other aid to Ukraine.
He said he could see no reason for him to travel to Kyiv but announced he would talk by phone with his Ukrainian counterpart, Denys Shmyhal, about what the country needs ahead of the forthcoming winter.
Fico returned to power and took over as prime minister for the fourth time after his leftist Smer, or Direction, party won Slovakia’s Sept 30 parliamentary election on a pro-Russian and anti-American platform.
Fico formed a majority government with the leftist Hlas, or Voice, party and the ultranationalist Slovak National Party.
Fico’s victory marks a dramatic turnaround in the country’s foreign policy and could strain a fragile unity in the European Union and NATO.
Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million people that shares a border with Ukraine, had been a staunch supporter of Kyiv since Russia invaded in February last year, donating arms and opening its borders for refugees fleeing the war.
Beside stopping the arms donations, Fico also opposes EU sanctions on Russia and wants to block Ukraine from joining NATO.