Lubomir Strougal, Czechoslovak communist leader, dies at 98

Czechoslovak communist leader Lubomir Strougalat the launch of the book of his memories, in Prague, Czech Republic, Jan. 5, 2012.Lubomir Strougal, a Czechoslovak communist leader who served as prime minister for a record more than 18 years has died. He was 98.(Katerina Sulova/CTK via AP)/CTK via AP) (Katerina Sulova)

PRAGUE – Lubomir Strougal, a Czechoslovak communist-era leader who served as prime minister for a record length of more than 18 years has died. He was 98.

His death was confirmed to media by former Communist Party lawmaker Jiri Dolejs on Monday. No details were given.

Strougal was appointed prime minister in 1970, when the country was ruled by a hard-line communist regime established following the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Warsaw Pact troops invaded in August 1968 to crush political reforms and anti-communist protests during the era known as the Prague Spring.

Strougal initially opposed the invasion but later joined the hard-liners.

After Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced a reform program known as ″perestroika,″ or restructuring, Strougal was considered a pragmatic reformer.

But the hard-liners led by Milous Jakes prevailed, with Strougal resigning from his post in 1988 — a year before the Velvet Revolution led by Vaclav Havel ended more than 41 years of communist rule.

Legal attempts after 1989 failed to hold Strougal responsible for the communist-era persecution and the deaths of people killed at Czechoslovakia's borders while trying to flee for the West.

Born Oct 19, 1924 in Veseli nad Luznici, Strougal was a member of the Communist Party's leadership for three decades and also served as agriculture minister and interior minister before becoming prime minister.

He retired from politics in 1989 and was expelled from the party a year later.