Former Czech communist leader Bilak dies
Bratislava: Vasil Bilak, a former communist leader who paved the way for the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, has died aged 96, the Slovak Communist Party said.
Bilak, who died yesterday, was among the hardline communists who co-signed a letter to then Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev calling for the military occupation of Czechoslovakia during a widespread democratic reform movement known as the Prague Spring.
The August 21, 1968 invasion by Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops from Bulgaria, East Germany, Hungary and Poland crushed the pro-democratic drive.
More than 100 people were killed and 500 were injured in the early days of the invasion. Reformers like Alexander Dubcek, a prominent communist party official who led the push for democratisation, were persecuted.
Bilak was the Czechoslovak Communist Party`s number two and its chief ideologist.
He quit in 1988, shortly before the totalitarian regime collapsed peacefully during the Velvet Revolution of 1989.
Bilak was charged with high treason after Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, but was never convicted of any crimes.
He lived a quiet life at his Bratislava villa until his death.
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