Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Visits Memorials, Beer Hall

PRAGUE -- President Vladimir Putin wrapped up a tour of two former Soviet satellite states Thursday with meetings meant to evoke the brighter moments in a clouded common past and help pave the way for future cooperation.

Putin and Czech President Vaclav Klaus placed flowers at memorials to Soviet soldiers killed in World War II and Russians who took part in a 1813 battle in which they helped Austrian and Prussian forces defeat the French army. Putin also greeted Czech veterans of the war against Nazi Germany.

Before ending his two-day visit, he met separately with Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and the chairmen of both houses of parliament for talks that focused on economic ties.

He then stepped into a pub near the picturesque Charles Bridge, where he and other members of the Russian delegation drank beer and had a snack.

"Very tasty," Putin said as he left the beer hall and got back into his limousine for the ride to the airport.

Putin, who arrived Wednesday from Hungary, set the tone for the first visit by a Russian president in more than a decade with statements acknowledging Moscow's moral responsibility for two brutal Soviet-era crackdowns: the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia and the bloody crushing of an uprising in Hungary 50 years ago. Putin's gesture appeared aimed at soothing lingering anger over Moscow's Soviet-era domination and improving Russia's image in hopes of boosting its clout with former Warsaw Pact countries that have shifted sharply to the West.

Kremlin aide Sergei Prikhodko told reporters that Putin's statements about Moscow's moral responsibility showed "the maturity of our relations" with the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Not all Czechs were convinced. A comment in the daily Lidove Noviny on Thursday suggested that Putin's gesture was a shrewd piece of diplomacy that pleased officials while shutting the door on potential compensation demands for damages caused by the occupation.