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Thousands protest in Prague, demand Czech's pro-Western govt. resign

Demonstrators take part in an anti-government protest demanding the resignation of Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, in Prague, the Czech Republic, September 16, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

Thousands of protesters have rallied in the Czech Republic's capital city of Prague to demand the country's pro-Western government resign over its support for the war in Ukraine and its economic performance.

The protesters, who were supporters of a new political party known as PRO, converged on Prague's Wenceslas Square on Saturday, with CTK news agency estimating the turnout at about 10,000.

The rally was the third of its kind to be organized in the capital this year by PRO, whose name in English stands for Law, Respect and Expertise. It has no seats in parliament.

"We made another step today to move out of the way the rock that is the government of Mr [Prime Minister Petr] Fiala," PRO leader Jindrich Raichl told the crowd.

He blamed the government "for following orders from Brussels," saying, "They are agents of foreign powers. People who fulfill orders [are] ordinary puppets. And I do not want a puppet government anymore."

Raichl criticized the Czech Republic’s support for Ukraine, which Prague has been arming with tanks, rocket launchers, helicopters, artillery shells, and other military hardware since its war with Russia began last year.

"We don't want in Straka's Academy (seat of the Czech Government), the government of the EU, or American, or Ukrainian. We don't even want a Russian government or a Chinese government. We want there the Czech government of the Czech citizens," he added.

"We are not a sovereign country, we listen to Brussels," one of the protesters said, adding, "Why send weapons to Ukraine, why don't they strive for peace?"

"I want the government to either resign or to govern fairly and administer its country, to govern this country for its own benefit and not for the benefit of other countries and foreign capitals," another protester said.

Some demonstrators demanded the country quit NATO, saying that the Czech Republic had to veto any attempt by Ukraine to join the Western military alliance.

Protesters also criticized the government's record on the economy, which has suffered a double-digit inflation and underperformed compared to its European peers. Critics say the country's economic output has not reached pre-COVID levels yet. 

Earlier this year, annual inflation in the European Union's member state of 10.5 million people reached 16.7 percent, which was well above the tolerance threshold of three percent set by the Czech National Bank.

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