After being welcomed to Prague by President Vaclav Klaus, Vladimir Putin has said Russia bore a moral responsibility for the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of what was Communist Czechoslovakia.
But the Russian leader did not offer the apology that many Czechs have long sought. In 1993 Russia and the Czech Republic signed a friendship treaty, repudiating the invasion which stopped the “Prague Spring” pro-democracy movement and the occupation that followed. President Putin’s conciliatory statements in Prague and in Budapest earlier in the week come as Moscow tries to restore economic clout in nations that are now European and Nato members. Meanwhile former President Vaclav Havel and other figures such as former Irish President Mary Robinson have published a text accusing the Kremlin of using the threat of Chechen terrorism to trample democratic freedoms.