Czechs are up in arms about a Russian television documentary that justifies the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia as necessary "to protect" Soviet allies from NATO "aggression."
Warsaw Pact: Declassified Pages, was aired recently by Rossia-1 television, prompting Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek to summon Russia's ambassador to the Czech Republic for an explanation.
The Czech Foreign Ministry also announced on June 1 that the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kiselyov, has been asked to explain Moscow's recent travel ban against 89 politicians from 17 European Union states.
"The minister would like [to know] what the reasons were for Moscow's sanctions list and why there are Czechs on it," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Michaela Lagronova told reporters.
Moscow on June 1 rejected criticism of the blacklist, saying the move was not politically motivated.
"Another issue is the documentary by Russian television about the August 1968 invasion," Lagronova said. "The minister has noted the documentary and is interested to find out why the Russian television broadcasts such lies."
On August 21, 1968, the Soviet Union and its East Bloc allies invaded Czechoslovakia in reaction to liberalization reforms by communist leader Alexander Dubcek.
The invasion claimed more than 100 lives, halted the reforms, and reinforced the dominance of conservatives within Czechoslovakia's ruling communist party.
The Russian documentary described the invasion as "help" for the people of Czechoslovakia in preventing the "illegal armed overthrow of the government" by radical Czech groups linked to the West. The invasion, the documentary goes on to explain, took place as NATO troops were "ready to enter Czechoslovakia."
Czech-based historians have harshly criticized the documentary, saying it replicates Soviet propaganda that tried to justify the invasion in 1968.
During a visit to the Czech Republic in 1993, then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin condemned the 1968 invasion as "inadmissible," while pinning the blame on Soviet leaders, not modern, "democratic Russia."
In 2006, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in Prague that Russia carried "no legal, but moral" responsibility for the Warsaw Pact invasion.