Major protest in EU capital calls for direct gas talks with Russia
Tens of thousands of demonstrators filled Prague's central square, on Friday, to decry rampant inflation amid the Czech government’s support for anti-Russia sanctions and aid packages to Ukraine.
They called for direct gas talks with Moscow and the resignation of Prime Minister Petr Fiala and his cabinet. Participants chanted “resign, resign” while waving Czechian national flags.
The latest rally follows two similar protests last month, including one that reportedly attracted an estimated 70,000 people.
The crowd in Wenceslas Square demanded an end to Czechia’s participation in anti-Russia sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, which have contributed to soaring energy and food prices.
🚨🚨🚨A large rally against anti-Russian sanctions is taking place in PragueThe protesters demand the resignation of Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala⚡⚡⚡ pic.twitter.com/OcbaQhCvU4— 🇷🇺Ghost of kherson🇷🇺 (@ILRUSSO1) October 28, 2022
“Russia’s not our enemy, the government of warmongers is our enemy,” the Associated Press cited one speaker at the rally as saying. A group named Czech Republic First, which has organized the protests, opposes NATO and has called for the country to adopt a militarily neutral stance.
“This is a new national revival, and its goal is for the Czech Republic to be independent,” Reuters quoted organizer Ladislav Vrabel as saying. “When I see a full square, no one can stop this.”
Fiala’s government has shrugged off the protestors, calling them “pro-Russian” and accusing their organizers of listening to Russian disinformation campaigns. Czechia joined NATO in March 1999, just days before the US-led bloc attacked Yugoslavia, and became a member of the EU in 2004.
“We know who our friends are and who is bleeding for our freedom,” Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said on Friday in a Twitter post. “And we also know who our foes are, and we will not let them steal our patriotism.”
Czechia has been hit particularly hard by the European energy crisis, at least partly because of its historic reliance on Russian natural gas. Households in the country are reportedly incurring the second-highest electricity prices in the EU, behind only Estonia. Czechia’s inflation rate soared to 18% in September.