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Ex-NATO general becomes president of the Czech Republic



(Prague) Former NATO general Petr Pavel was sworn in on Thursday and formally became president of the Czech Republic.

During the ceremony, he stressed the importance of unity in supporting Ukraine.

“Central Europe’s single voice will be important if we want to help Ukraine win,” he said at the ceremony at Prague Castle, pledging to take his country’s reputation to abroad “to a new level”.

The new president said Ukraine could serve as a role model because it “showed us and our partners that unwavering determination is stronger than the advantage and strength of an aggressor”.

Petr Pavel, 61, was elected in January after defeating ex-prime minister Andrej Babis, a populist billionaire, in the second round of the election.

He will replace Milos Zeman, whose second and final five-year term expired on Wednesday.

Although his role is essentially ceremonial in the Czech Republic, the head of state appoints the government, chooses the governor of the central bank and the constitutional judges, and assumes supreme command of the armed forces.

Along with pledging continued support for Ukraine, Pavel also pledged to strengthen close ties with the European Union and NATO and intensify relations with the United States.

A military college graduate and elite paratrooper, Petr Pavel gained fame for liberating French troops besieged by Serbs during the 1993 Bosnian war.

Hundreds of people cheered Mr. Pavel and waved flags as he arrived at Prague Castle.

Also on Thursday, more than 100 motorcyclists rode through the historic center of Prague to mark the event. Mr. Pavel is an avid motorcyclist.

For his first official visit abroad as president, he plans to visit Slovakia for two days on March 13.

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova had traveled to Prague to congratulate him on his election victory on voting day.

The two countries had formed Czechoslovakia until their peaceful separation in 1993.

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