Prague Spring victims finally win payout

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The Independent Online

Victims of the Soviet-led crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968 are to receive up to £3,500 compensation in an attempt to close the last chapter in one of the most painful episodes in recent Czech history.

Victims of the Soviet-led crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968 are to receive up to £3,500 compensation in an attempt to close the last chapter in one of the most painful episodes in recent Czech history.

Almost 100 Czechs were killed and more than 700 injured in the first few days after Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia in August 1968, in order to defeat reformers who were attempting to roll back the influence of Moscow.

"This is recognition of the fact that the state failed in one of its basic functions and did not manage to protect its citizens in 1968. For that it should compensate its citizens," said Petr Necas, shadow Defence Minister and deputy chairman of the main opposition party, the Civic Democrats.

The largest sums will be paid to the families of those killed, while smaller amounts will be paid to those injured or raped. But there are certain to be complaints over the size of the compensation. MPs had proposed compensation ranging from 100,000 crowns (£2,300) to 1mcrowns, but the final figures will range from 30,000 crowns for people who suffered injuries as a direct result of the occupation to 150,000 crowns for the close relatives of people who were killed.

Victims who were raped and suffered serious lasting injuries are to receive 70,000 crowns. The reduced sums were supported by the ruling Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party. Miroslava Nemcova, an MP and a Civic Democrat Party leader, acknowledged that the payments were low but said they were merely a symbolic recognition of the damage suffered.

About 30 Soviet divisions backed by troops from four other former Warsaw Pact countries - Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and East Germany - invaded Czechoslovakia. The military intervention was notably ruthless in dealing with the country's reform movement, led by the Czech prime minister at the time, Alexander Dubcek.

The Civic Democrats said that rape and violence continued for several months, although no reliable figures for the number of victims exist.

After the invasion, the Soviet Union helped install a hard-line leadership that dismissed reformers from the party and suppressed human rights and opposition movements. The Communist regime was overthrown in November 1989 during the Velvet Revolution, whose leaders included the playwright dissident Vaclav Havel, who went on to become president.

The compensation covers the period between 20 August 1968, when the occupation started, and 27 June 1991, when the last Soviet soldiers left Czechoslovakia.

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