Czechs mobilize to demand the resignation of the pro-Western government
PRAGUE (AP) — Tens of thousands of Czechs used a public holiday Friday to rally in the capital against the pro-Western government and its support for Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion.
The rally follows two others in Prague’s central Wenceslas Square and was smaller than the 70,000 people who gathered for the same reasons on September 3, according to police estimates.
Held under the slogan “Czech Republic First”, a reference to former US President Donald Trump’s nationalist platform, the protest brought together the far right with the far left and various fringe groups. Its organizers are known for their pro-Russian views and opposition to COVID-19 vaccines.
With the country’s energy, food and housing prices soaring, protesters were demanding the resignation of the coalition government led by conservative Prime Minister Petr Fiala.
“Resign!” they chanted, waving national flags.
The demonstrators repeatedly condemned the government for its support for Ukraine and European Union sanctions against Russia, opposed the Czech Republic’s membership of the EU, NATO and the other international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization.
“Russia is not our enemy, the warmonger government is the enemy,” said one speaker.
A small rally took place in the country’s second largest city, Brno.
The government rejected these requests.
“We know who our friend is and who is bleeding for our freedom,” Interior Minister Vit Rakusan tweeted. “And we also know who our enemy is.”
Czechia has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine, donated heavy weapons to the Ukrainian military and granted approximately 450,000 visas to Ukrainian refugees which give them access to health care, financial assistance, work permit and other benefits.
Fiala and several ministers planned to travel to Kyiv on Monday for a joint meeting of the Czech and Ukrainian governments.
“We strongly support the justified struggle of the Ukrainian people against Russian aggression,” Fiala said on Saturday.
Although the country’s populist opposition made some gains in municipal elections last month, the five ruling coalition parties won the vote earlier this month for a third of the seats in the upper house of parliament, the Senate.