A ceremony has been held outside the Czech Radio building on Prague's Vinohradska St, marking the 35th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. Speaking at the ceremony on Thursday morning, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla described the invasion as the beginning of a dark period and the start of a fight for freedom which did not end until November 1989. The worst clashes between occupying soldiers and residents of Prague took place in front of what was then the Czechoslovak Radio building. The invasion crushed the communist reform movement known as the Prague Spring.
The Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, laid a wreath on Thursday morning at a memorial to Jan Palach and Jan Zajic, two young men who burned themselves to death in protest at the Soviet-led invasion of 1968. Mr Koizumi, who is the first Japanese prime minister to visit the Czech Republic, also laid a wreath at the nearby statue of St Vaclav on Wenceslas Square. Though the area around the statue was cordoned off, Mr Koizumi surprised his handlers by going for a short walkabout and greeting passers-by, including Japanese tourists. He then met his Czech counterpart, Vladimir Spidla, for talks ahead of a dinner in his honour on Thursday evening.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel marked the 35th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion by taking part in an informal meeting at the library in the north Bohemian town of Liberec. Both Mr Havel and actor Jan Triska, who also attended Thursday's gathering, were in Liberec on August 21, 1968 when the invasion began. Mr Havel prepared a statement against the occupation for television and radio which was read by Mr Triska. Mr Havel said it never would have occurred to him at the time that one day he, as president, would sign a document abolishing the Warsaw Pact.
Meanwhile, a memorial in Prague to the victims of communism was vandalised on Wednesday night. Red tape with abusive slogans on it was wrapped around the statues which make up the memorial and represent political prisoners of the 1950s. A spokesperson for the Confederation of Political Prisoners described the vandalism as "Bolshevik revenge".
An elite Czech police rapid deployment unit is likely to take over next month from the soldiers who are currently protecting Czech diplomats and officials in Baghdad, deputy defence minister Jan Vana said on Thursday. The move was discussed today by representatives of the Foreign, Defence and Interior Ministries. Fears about security have increased after an attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad on Tuesday.
The highest lottery jackpot in the history of the Czech Republic - around 113 million crowns, or almost four million US dollars - was won by one person on Wednesday evening. The winning ticket was bought in a shop in a Prague metro station. Almost half of the country's population of ten million bought a ticket for the Sportka lottery draw.
Police in the Prague district of Kbely caught a one-and-a-half metre long alligator which had escaped from an apartment in the area on Thursday morning. Before the alligator could be transferred from a shelter for abandoned animals to Prague Zoo its owner came forward to claim it. The owner is expected to face a fine for not informing the relevant authorities that he possessed such a dangerous animal.
Friday should be a hot and sunny day around the Czech Republic, with a maximum temperature of 29 degrees Celsius.
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