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Russian President Commemorates Bratislava's Liberation By Soviet Troops


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev walks past a guard of honor upon his arrival in Bratislava.
(RFE/RL) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has attended ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the Slovak capital's liberation by the Red Army on April 4, 1945.

Speaking at a ceremony in Bratislava, in which Russian and Slovak war veterans were decorated, Medvedev called for the continued remembrance of the thousands of Russian soldiers who died for the liberation of Slovakia at the end of World War II.

"We must preserve the memory [of World War II] even though it was a long time ago, even though in many countries there are different interpretations of those events now," Medvedev said.

On April 6 in Bratislava, Medvedev pointed out the significance of the 1945 victory of the allies against Nazi Germany.

"Our countries will be celebrating indeed our common victory, which impacted the development of Europe in the 20th century in the most radical way," Medvedev said.

"If we hadn't won that victory, we would all live in a completely different society now, based on different values -- or, most probably, wouldn't live at all."

Medvedev and his Slovak counterpart, Ivan Gasparovic, today signed a joint statement highlighting "the fundamental contribution" of the Soviet Union to Europe's liberation from fascism. The two sides also pledged to prevent a revival or emergence of "nationalist ideologies" as well as attempts to "embellish the Nazis and their associates."

At a joint news conference, Medvedev said he agreed with the Slovak president that cooperation between their countries could play a serious positive role in strengthening Russia's relations with the European Union. Medvedev also called for visa-free access to the European Union for Russians.

"We should look for new areas where we could make joint efforts," Medvedev said. "And today we signed documents that lay down the foundation for such cooperation for the next few years -- in nuclear fuel supply, production of freight train cars -- but there are also other areas that are only being discussed today, which, I hope, will be put into documents in the near future."

Gasparovic said the presidents did not avoid "controversial issues" in their talks. But neither spoke to the press about the Soviet-led invasion of the former Czechoslovakia in 1968, which crushed a brief political liberalization in the communist state.

A small group of protesters that came to the presidential palace in Bratislava to demand an apology, held up a banner saying "August 21, 1968 -- Apologize."

Business Deals

The Russian delegation, also comprising the foreign, energy, and justice ministers, signed nine cooperation agreements in the fields of transportation, energy, the protection of the right of intellectual work, and the fight against illegal trafficking of drugs.

The documents include a framework contract between Russia's TVEL and the power generation company Slovenske Elektrarne on the deliveries of nuclear fuel, and agreements between the Russian Railway Company and Slovakia's Tatravagonka on a joint venture for designing and construction of railway freight cars and on research cooperation.

The two sides also discussed a project to build a nuclear fuel plant in Slovakia. TVEL President Yury Olenin told reporters that the joint venture would use Russian technologies to produce fuel for Russian-designed reactors.

Slovakia, a NATO and EU member state, maintains cordial relations with Russia, which is one of its largest business partners and a key source of natural gas and oil. Slovakia is also an important transit link in Russian hydrocarbon exports to Europe.

Medvedev was to attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial of Russian soldiers and a concert by Russia's army choir before departing for the neighboring Czech Republic later in the day.

Nuclear Treaty In Prague

In Prague on April 8, Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama are scheduled to sign a landmark nuclear-arms-reduction treaty that will see both countries slash the number of deployed nuclear warheads by more than a quarter.

The new agreement replaces 1991's Cold War-era Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expired on December 5.

In comments published to coincide with his visit to Slovakia, Medvedev called for a new European security structure that analysts say would bolster Russia's global influence at the expense of NATO.

The proposed treaty would prohibit signatories from taking action that would "affect significantly" the security of any other party to the pact.

Medvedev wrote that the Russian proposal is meant to "put a definite end to the Cold War period and anchor the principle of indivisible security."

compiled from agency reports