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Czech Republic: Milovice commemorates 30 years since the withdrawal of Soviet troops

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By Katy Dartford  & Jiri Skacel
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Czech Republic: Milovice commemorates 30 years since the withdrawal of Soviet troops
Copyright  euronews, Jiri Skacel
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A former Soviet military base in the Czech Republic is commemorating 30 years since the last Soviet soldiers abandoned the city in 1991, following the dissolution of the USSR.

Milovice, located 35 kilometres northeast of Prague, was once the largest base of the Central Group of Soviet Troops in Europe following the occupation of former Czechoslovakia in 1968.

The small Czech town has marked the moment with a parade of floats reconstructing this important moment in its history.

The troops were expelled from Milovice and Czechoslovakia after 23 years due to the strong will of a people and by political activists, like local rock star, Michael Kocab.

"27th of June, when General Vorobiov entered the airplane in Prague Kbely airport, I realised that we had received full freedom and state sovereignty back again,” Kocab told Euronews.

LUBOMIR KOTEK/AFP
Soviet soldiers on 24 February 1990 in their base of Milovice, as the withdrawal of the first Soviet troops occupying Czechoslovakia since 1968 begin.LUBOMIR KOTEK/AFP

The liberation involved the large-scale movement of people and equipment: 74,000 Soviet soldiers and 40,000 members of their families started out.

With them were more than 1,300 tanks, 131 artillery guns, 15 missiles, and 260 ammunition trucks.

LUBOMIR KOTEK/AFP
Soviet army band performs in front of Soviet army military base 24 February 1990 in Milovice, as the withdrawal of the first Soviet troops occupying Czechoslovakia since 1968LUBOMIR KOTEK/AFP

This vast withdrawal operation took just a year and a half to complete.

“The willingness of the superpower to surrender its positions in Europe was that time much bigger than today,” said historian, Prokop Tomek.

When the Soviet army left Milovice, it left behind destroyed buildings, fields contaminated by gasoline, and forgotten ammunition. Years of cleanup and reconstruction work were needed to restore the area.

MICHAL CIZEK/AFP
Abandoned buildings in Milovice in August 2004, more than a decade after the last Soviet soldier marched out of the former military enclaveMICHAL CIZEK/AFP

But by modernising, Milovice can eliminate the scars of the past, explained the mayor of the city, Lukas Pilc.

“We choose the way of traveling, sport, and recreation instead of building logistic compounds and industrial buildings," said Pilc.

30 years after the departure of the Soviet troops, Milovice today has great potential for development, as Euronews correspondent Jiri Skacel explains:

“This prosperous city, surrounded by nature, is a pleasant place to live, especially for families.”