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Ministry thanks Moscow anniversary activists

THE SLOVAK Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed appreciation to those in Moscow who commemorated the 45th anniversary of the Warsaw Pact armies (led by the Soviet Army) invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968. However, the ministry is reluctant to assess whether the activists violated Russian laws or not, ministry spokesperson Boris Gandel told the SITA newswire. He was commenting on a group of activists who gathered at Moscow’s Red Square to commemorate the anniversary of a similar protest evoked in the then Soviet capital. Ten of the attendees at this year’s event were detained by Russian police.

THE SLOVAK Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed appreciation to those in Moscow who commemorated the 45th anniversary of the Warsaw Pact armies (led by the Soviet Army) invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968. However, the ministry is reluctant to assess whether the activists violated Russian laws or not, ministry spokesperson Boris Gandel told the SITA newswire. He was commenting on a group of activists who gathered at Moscow’s Red Square to commemorate the anniversary of a similar protest evoked in the then Soviet capital. Ten of the attendees at this year’s event were detained by Russian police.

Much as protestors did back in 1968, the 2013 activists also held a poster featuring the slogan “For your and our freedom”. All the detained activists received a call to appear in court and face a fine of some €800 for what the Russian authorities call the violation of the rules of a public gathering, SITA reported.

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs however expressed surprise over the police action and said that it believes that Russian authorities must be aware of the symbolism of this step, adding that it assumes that the participants of the gathering will not be punished, according to news site iDNES.cz.

In a joint statement, Rudolf Chmel, chairman of the Slovak parliamentary committee for human rights and František Šebej, chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said they were disturbed by the action taken by the Russian police. They also said that society should remember the names of the eight Russians – Larisa Bogoraz, Konstantin Babickij, Vadim Delanuay, Vladimir Dremljuga, Pavel Litvinov, Natalia Gorbanevskaja, Viktor Fajnberg and Tatjana Bajeva – who back in 1968 protested against the invasion. Seven of the eight ended up in prisons or psychiatric wards for many years, SITA reported.

Šebej and Chmel said that the Russian police ended the commemoration of this event as though the activists committed a crime.

“We remind you that Russia has repeatedly apologised for the act of military intervention and occupation, which ended by the departure of the Russian army only in 1991,” Šebej and Chmel wrote in their statement. They added, however, that police targeting of the participants in this year’s demonstration gives the impression that the current Russian leadership does not identify with the apology, SITA reported.

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