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Gorbachev attends funeral of Prague Spring leader

April 26, 1997

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) _ Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev joined former Czech politicians and dissidents at the funeral of a leading communist reformer.

Zdenek Mlynar, a student at Moscow State University at the same as Gorbachev and a leader of the Czechoslovak Communist Party during the 1968 Prague Spring, died of lung cancer in Vienna on April 15. He was 66.

``My fate was connected with his for more than 45 years,″ Gorbachev said during a short speech at the ceremony Friday, held in Prague’s crematorium.

Mlynar joined the Communist Party in 1946 but soon grew to see the communist system as totalitarian and undemocratic. He tried to introduce reforms from the top, but his efforts were crushed by the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.

Mlynar was expelled from the party in 1970. Seven years later, he co-founded Charter 77, an appeal for the Czechoslovak party and government to respect human rights.

``I never believed that he and his colleagues sold out their ideals,″ Gorbachev said, calling Mlynar ``a devoted socialist.″

Dozens of former communists, dissidents and Mlynar’s friends from the Czech community in exile gathered at the ceremony Friday, which started with a song by Russian balladeer Bulat Okudzhava and ended with Maurice Ravel’s ``Bolero.″

Mlynar’s wife, Irena Dubska, and his two children from his previous marriage also were present.

Before the funeral, Gorbachev paid a courtesy call on President Vaclav Havel. He was to leave Prague today.

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