The issue of Communists creeping back into the governance of the Czech Republic won’t go away—an August 21 memorial on the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion that crushed the Prague Spring move towards political liberalisation turned into a protest against Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
Czech media reported that around 200 people sought to drown out both Babis and Speaker of the House Radek Vondracek (both members of the populist Ano party) as they spoke at a commemorative event for the victims of the Soviet occupation. There was deafening whistling, shouts and chants referring to the former StB secret police service of Czechoslovakia and to treason, Pravo daily said.
There was already plenty of indignance in the air prior to the event—held in front of a Czech Radio building in Prague that was occupied by Soviet troops after the invasion—following Kremlin-friendly Czech President Milos Zeman’s decision not to give a speech or attend a commemorative occasion to mark the anniversary.
Babis and Ano have been under fire since early July when a minority coalition created with the Social Democrats secured a vote of confidence to form a government thanks to the support of the Communists in a vote in parliament. Thus, for the first time since the 1989 Velvet Revolution, the Communists are influential in a Czech government. Slovak-born Babis, a billionaire agrochemicals and foodstuffs entrepreneur and former Communist party member, is still fighting legal battles to persuade a court that it is incorrect to state that he was an StB collaborator during the Communist era.
In his nearly inaudible speech at the memorial event, Babis said that the 1968 occupation and what followed were traumatic for society. He expressed admiration for those who acted bravely and concluded that many people misuse freedom today to get the most for themselves.
Leader of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) opposition party Petr Fiala remarked that as Babis had formed a government with the Communists, he could not be surprised when people at an event about the dark days of 1968 expressed their views and fears, according to Pravo.
The commemorative speech of Slovak President Andrej Kiska was carried by both Slovak and Czech public television, in the absence of any contribution from Zeman.
Kiska said that the events of 50 years ago, in which Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia along with around a quarter of a million troops, were like a horror film. He stressed the need to choose international partners carefully and said that the two pillars of security for the Czech and Slovak republics are Nato and the EU.
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