August 23, 2008 Saturday 8:15 PM GMT
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel denounced Saturday Russia's expansive policy under what he called Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's "sophisticated regime."
"The invasion and occupation of Georgia clearly shows the nature of the current Putin regime, a lot more sophisticated than the communism of (former Soviet president Leonid) Brezhnev," Havel, who was also the last president of former Czechoslovakia, said during a debate at a rock festival in northeast city of Trutnov.
The architect of the "Velvet Revolution" in 1989 that led to the downfall of Prague's communist government, Havel also compared the current Georgian-Russian conflict with the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, accusing Moscow of having "imperial ambitions."
"Russia does not really know where it begins and where it ends. It is the biggest country in the world and yet it gives the impression that it is too small and that it is constantly threatened by all its small neighbours," he said.
He spoke as Russian troops continued manning positions deep inside Georgia, keeping a grip on a strategic port, while Europe pressed Moscow to pull back further and allow international observers in the volatile region.
"We must not talk to Russia like we would a leper (leprosy sufferer)... in a slightly special manner, gentle and careful," he said to loud applause from the hundreds of young festival-goers.
Organisers of the open-air music festival invited 108 groups and soloists to perform this weekend to mark the 108 Czechs and Slovaks who were killed by Warsaw Pact soldiers between August and December 1968.
A series of commemorations were held this week to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the Prague Spring, in which Czechoslovakia's Prime Minister Alexander Dubcek tried to usher in liberal reforms, but was crushed by Soviet tanks and its Warsaw Pact allies.