STRASBOURG, October 10. /TASS/. The West’s sanctions against Russia hurt both sides and are counterproductive, Czech President Milos Zeman told a PACE plenary session on Tuesday.
"I doubt that (these) sanctions are efficient, this is a strategy that makes all parties into losers," the president said. "Europe has a lot of dividing lines, and one of them goes between Russia and the rest of Europe, I don't want to exaggerate by saying that a new iron curtain has appeared, but a certain dividing line does exist. Please trust my extensive political experience when I say it is much more difficult to find friends than enemies," Milos Zeman told the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
"Psychologically, a myth of a besieged fortress exists, and the besieged fortress becomes even more powerful under these conditions, and it needs a strong leader. This is exactly what is happening with Russia," he went on.
"Support for the Russian President (Vladimir Putin) is only growing in this situation. Take a look - his approval rating stands at an 80% level, while my rating as president of the Czech Republic (a nation) that is facing no sanctions, is only at 51%," Zeman noted. "If you want to change the pattern of some state’s conduct, you should act through a dialogue," he went on.
"We know the example of Brexit, in which both sides lose. The same can be said about the anti-Russian sanctions. Against this background, we currently need tourist and student exchanges with Russia, exchanges with business people, contacts with politicians. This is what will help change the situation," the Czech leader said.
He also believes "the Council of Europe must intensify its ties with the nations of Europe, and it’s my understanding that Europe stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean". "We cannot, for example, separate Russian from European culture. Tchaikovsky is as important for it (Europe’s culture) as Bach and Beethoven, while Dostoyevsky is as important as Shakespeare. Solzhenitsyn is as significant as Hemingway," the president said.
"Then why are these attempts by all means to divide Europe politically, as I am sure that you would be against divisions in European culture," he added.
"I believe that the policy of the Council of Europe aimed at strengthening friendship between European countries should also apply to Russia," Zeman stressed, adding that "this policy will be successful over time".