Thousands of people gathered in central Prague on Friday to protest against the centre-right government, blaming it for soaring prices and what they see as excessive focus on war-ravaged Ukraine. The rally was convened by the Czech Republic First movement, which has ties to the far-right, to coincide with the October 28 national holiday commemorating the establishment of independent Czechoslovakia in 1918. Protesters in Prague’s iconic Wenceslas Square demanded the resignation of the government and brandished banners calling ministers “dilettantes”.
“The government we have is the worst in the history of the Czech Republic and I’m not the only one who thinks so,” protester Eva Frantova told AFP. She criticised Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s five-party cabinet for high energy prices and accused it of paying more attention to Ukraine than to its own people. The Czech Republic, which currently holds the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union, has provided Ukraine with substantial military and humanitarian aid since Russia invaded its neighbour in February. Frantova also said there was “increasing censorship”, pointing to the government’s decision to close several pro-Moscow websites after the war started. Police said attendance at the rally was in the “lower tens of thousands”.
The country of 10.5 million people is battling soaring inflation, which reached 18 percent year-on-year in September. The price hikes, witnessed across Europe, are fuelled by a spike in the cost of energy, caused primarily by Russia restricting gas supply to Europe in response to EU economic sanctions. Friday’s rally follows an anti-government protest in September called by the same group. That protest drew about 70,000 people to Wenceslas Square.__Daily Times