Prague - The Czech Republic is to commemorate today the 40th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of 1968. Russian troops stayed in what was then Communist Czechoslovakia for 23 years, the last Soviet soldier left only in June 1991.
Though, from the Czech environment´s point of view, the Red Army is still present in a way.
Underground water in zones where the Red Army stayed is still polluted by oil substances, ground is full of heavy metals and other toxics. The areas that have been badly affected will not be clean until 2012.
This means that it takes another 21 years to undo the environmental damage made by the Soviet military presence on Czech soil.
No rouble given
"The Soviet army occupied Czechoslovakia for 23 years, and the environmental damage their presence caused here will take nearly the same period of time to tackle the problem," Deputy Environment Minister Karel Bláha claims.
Since 1991, the damage created by the Soviet Army cost the Czechoslovak and let Czech governments CZK 1.35 billion (EUR 56 million). Another CZK 240 million (EUR 10 million) will have to be paid before the problem is solved in 2012.
And now comes the most important information - all the expenses were paid by Czech taxpayers, as Russia didn't give a single rouble.
Military boots leave deep imprints
Altogether 73 zones on the territory of the present-day Czech Republic were used by the Red Army.
"The expert research showed that the occupants caused environmental damage in roughly 60 of these places," Environment Ministry spokesman Jakub Kašpar says, adding that sanitation works have already started in the most polluted areas.
"The fundamental works have been finished in majority of these zones," Kašpar claimed.
Underground water is still being cleaned in six places - Hradčany, Milovice - Boží Dar, Milovice - tábor, Luštěnice, Kuřívody a Frenštát pod Radhoštěm. For the Soviet Army, Milovice was the key spot.
The former military area in Ralsko, north Bohemia was used first by German Nazi Wehrmacht, subsequently by Communist Czechoslovak army and finally by Russian. The old ammunition can still be found in some parts of the territory.
A complete cleanup may last as much as 100 years. The public service Czech TV informed that old ammunition has destroyed two times a month in that region.
Some territories will have to deal with the consequences of the Soviet military presence for decades, although the major environmental damage will have been already undone.