Prague: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday recalled the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia as he pressed Europe for further help in responding to Russia's war in Ukraine.
"We're with you, be with us," Zelensky told Czech lawmakers in Prague, quoting an appeal made by a Czechoslovak Radio presenter in 1968 as the occupants tried to cut the radio off.
"Now when the Ukrainian people are fighting for freedom against Russia's cruel invasion, we are using these words to address all nations of Europe and the democratic world," he added. "Ukraine should get everything necessary to achieve a victory." The 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by five Soviet-led armies crushed the so-called Prague Spring, a democratic movement during the communist spell of 1948-1989.
Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. Zelensky said he believed the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, was only the first step in a Moscow plot to retake its former satellites. "A tyrant who... wants everything will never stop," said Zelensky. "Czech people are very well aware of what happens when you make compromises with tyrants," he added, also recalling the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938.
Zelensky thanked Prague for welcoming more than 300,000 Ukrainian refugees and sending over weapons worth over 3.5 billion koruna ($148 million). He urged the Czech Republic to help accelerate the next package of sanctions against Russia as it takes the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union in July.
Prague said it would prioritise Ukraine during its EU presidency, vowing to promote the country's bid to join the bloc and to help rebuild it after the war. "Be active so that all European leaders agree that defending and strengthening Europe is our common goal," Zelensky said. "Russian soldiers know that they are up against European values."