Czechoslovakia’s communist Prime Minister Lubomir Strougal dies at 98

Lubomir Strougal, who served as the prime minister of communist-ruled Czechoslovakia in 1970-1988, has died aged 98, the Czech news site Seznam Zpravy said on Monday.

Strougal became a member of the Czechoslovak Communist Party’s Central Committee, its top body, at age 34 in 1958 and stayed until the regime was toppled in the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

He became agriculture minister in 1959 and interior minister in 1961.

Strougal condemned the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, which crushed the short-lived period of greater freedom known as the Prague Spring.

But he was quick to change sides and became Czechoslovakia’s premier two years later, despite criticism from then-Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.

A fan of Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms in the 1980s, Strougal was dismayed when an anti-reform wing prevailed in the party and stepped down in 1988.

He was replaced by Ladislav Adamec, the country’s last communist prime minister.

Like many Czechoslovak leaders of the totalitarian communist era, Strougal has escaped all efforts to hold him accountable for the regime’s crimes.

Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia peacefully in 1993.