- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Czech ambassador is repeating himself: The Czech Republic is not absolutely not Chechnya.

Ambassador Petr Gandalovic delivered that message last week in Washington and Texas after ignorant Internet users confused the Czech Republic the democratic Central European nation with the Russian region of Chechnya, the native land of the Boston Marathon bombers.

After reports began showing up on social media sites, the ambassador tried to clear up the confusion.

“The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities,” he said in a statement released by the Czech Embassy.

One fundamental difference is that the Czech Republic is a nation of 10 million citizens who mostly profess no religious affiliation, while Chechnya is a region in Russia of about 1.2 million people who are overwhelmingly Muslim. The region has been racked by separatist wars that have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives since 1994.

Mr. Gandalovic did note that town of West, Texas, does have ties to the Czech Republic.

Most of the residents of the town of fewer than 3,000 residents where a fertilizer plant exploded Wednesday, have Czech heritage.

“This is basically a Czech city,” the ambassador told KLTV news in Texas. “The families have over 70 percent [Czech origin]. They have Czech names, and they maintain Czech festivities.”

He noted that the news of the explosion that killed 14 and injured about 200 has been “all over the news” in the Czech Republic.

Mr. Gandalovic, who is expected back in Washington on Monday, even felt the need to reiterate the difference between the Czech Republic and Chechnya.

“I wish to stress this is the Czech Republic, a country in Central Europe and your ally,” he said.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud Silanyo of Somaliland. He addresses the Atlantic Council.

Tienan Coulibaly, Mali’s minister for economy, finance and budget. He holds a 4 p.m. news conference at the Malian Embassy.

Sumru Altug, an economics professor at Koc University in Istanbul, who joins a panel discussion sponsored by the Turkish Industry and Business Association at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Subimal Bhattacharjee, a cybersecurity specialist with India’s General Dynamic Corp. who addresses the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Tuesday

Vice President Ingrid Roxana Baldetti Elias of Guatemala and Ulises Psihas, executive vice president of Mexico’s financial services firm, Grupo Elektra. They discuss U.S. immigration reform at a forum sponsored by the Americas Society and Council of the Americas.

Amr Hamzawy, a politically independent member of the Egyptian legislature, who addresses the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Hamid Akin Unver, a foreign policy specialist at Turkey’s Kadir Has University. He addresses the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Wednesday

Lual A. Deng, a member of South Sudan’s national assembly. He addresses the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Friday

Andrei Lankov, a Russian-born North Korea specialist at South Korea’s Koomkin University, who speaks at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

• Email Embassy Row at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.