Tens of thousands of Czechs took part in an anti-government protest in the center of Prague on Sept. 3, speaking out against support for Ukraine and insisting on lifting Russian sanctions, Czech news website Česke Noviny has reported.
The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Petr Fiala, has already spoken out regarding the protestors demands.
According to police estimates, the number of protesters counted about 70,000 people, and the rally was peaceful.
The slogan of the event was "Czech Republic in the first place."
Demonstrators held Czech flags, as well as placards against the EU and NATO, Prime Minister Petr Fiala, rising energy prices, and calls for neutrality and dialogue with Russia. Anti-vaccination slogans were also heard during the protest.
The event was organized by several political parties and organizations, including the Communist Party of the Czech Republic and the Eurosceptic Tricolor Citizens’ Movement.
Protesters were demanding the resignation of the current coalition government of conservative Prime Minister Petr Fiala, whom they criticize for following pro-Western policies and allegedly paying more attention to war-torn Ukraine than to his citizens.
At the same time, the organizers of the rally wanted the government to allow their experts to negotiate with Russia regarding the purchase of gas and oil.
“The purpose of our demonstration is to demand change, mainly in solving the issue of energy prices, especially electricity and gas, which will destroy our economy this fall," event co-organizer Jiří Havel told news website iDNES.cz.
"The Czech Republic needs a Czech government. Fiala's government may be Ukrainian, maybe Brussels, but not Czech," said the head of Tricolor party, Zuzana Majerová Zahradníková.
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According to her, the government should lower taxes, in particular VAT, and cancel anti-Russian sanctions that harm Czech businesses. She also demands an end to the supply of weapons to Ukraine.
The event organizers are planning another demonstration on Sept. 28.
Prime Minister Fiala, who heads the center-right five-party coalition, said the Wenceslas Square protest was organized by "pro-Russian forces close to extremist positions" whose interests conflict with those of the Czech Republic.
"It's clear that Russian propaganda and disinformation campaigns appear repeatedly on our territory, and some people simply fall for them," Fiala said.
He added that everyone has the right to express their opinion and hold demonstrations.
"From the events that I have had the opportunity to see so far, they indicate strongly pro-Russian sentiments, and, in my opinion, this does notcorrespond to the interests of the Czech Republic and our citizens," Fiala added.
The protest in central Prague came a day after parliament failed to support a vote of no confidence in Fiala's coalition amid opposition claims of inaction on inflation and rising energy prices.