PRAGUE (AP) — Tens of thousands of Czechs used a national holiday on Friday to rally in the capital against the pro-Western government and its support for Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression.
Police estimated the rally followed two others on Wenceslas Square in central Prague and was smaller than the 70,000 people who gathered for the same reason on September 3.
The protests, held under the slogan “Czech Republic First,” a reference to former President Donald Trump’s nationalist platform, united the far right and far left and various fringe groups. Its organizer is known for his pro-Russian views and his opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Protesters were demanding the resignation of the coalition government led by conservative Prime Minister Petr Fiala as energy, food and housing prices hit the country.
“Resign!” they chanted, waving flags.
Protesters have repeatedly denounced the government’s support for Ukraine, European Union sanctions against Russia, and opposed Czech membership in the EU, NATO and other international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization.
“Russia is not our enemy. The warmongering government is our enemy,” said one speaker.
A small rally was held in Brno, the country’s second largest city.
The government has denied these requests.
“I know who are our friends and who are bleeding for our freedom,” tweeted Home Minister Vit Laksan. “And we also know who our enemies are.”
The Czech Republic is a staunch supporter of Ukraine, donating heavy weapons to the Ukrainian army and giving Ukrainian refugees about 450,000 visas, providing access to medical care, financial assistance, work permits and other benefits. .
Fiala and several ministers had planned to travel to Kyiv on Monday for a joint meeting of the Czech and Ukrainian governments.
“We strongly support the legitimate fight of the Ukrainian people against Russian aggression,” Fiala said on Saturday.
The country’s populist opposition made some gains in last month’s city council elections, but the five ruling coalition parties won a landslide earlier this month to win a third of the seats in the upper house of parliament.