Last Updated on September 6, 2022
Over 70,000 people took the streets of the Czech capital of Prague on Saturday demanding an end to sanctions against Russia and arms shipments to Ukraine. Sanctions on Russian oil have caused energy prices to skyrocket across Europe, leading to an energy crisis.
The slogan of the event was “Czech Republic in the first place.”
Demonstrators waved Czech flags and carried signs against the European Union, NATO and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala. Surging energy costs were a source of major concern among protesters, who called for sanctions on Russian energy to be lifted in order to obtain some relief. “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 local outlet iDNES.cz.
Protesters also called for an end to repeated arms shipments to Ukraine, dialogue with Russia and neutrality in the conflict.
70,000 people took to the streets of Prague in a mass protest against the EU and NATO. They demanded neutrality in the war and action on energy prices. This is the future for all governments that act against the interests of their people. pic.twitter.com/HbsRTIjL3t
— Paweł Wargan (@pawelwargan) September 3, 2022
The event was organized by several political parties and organizations, including Eurosceptic Tricolor Citizens’ Movement, according to a report from The New York Post. Protesters were demanding the resignation of the current coalition government of conservative Prime Minister Petr Fiala, accusing him of placing Ukrainian and NATO interests above those of Czech citizens.
“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. She called for the government to lower taxes, singling out a VAT tax in particular, and called for an end to sanctions on Russia.
Event organizers are planning another large demonstration for September 28.
Prime Minister Petr Fiala pushed back on calls for his resignation and accused the protesters of doing Russia’s bidding. “It’s clear that Russian propaganda and disinformation campaigns appear repeatedly on our territory, and some people simply fall for them,” Fiala said.
“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 not correspond to the interests of the Czech Republic and our citizens,” he added.
European leaders have called on citizens to lower their energy usage as winter approaches. French President Emmanuel Macron called for a 10% reduction in energy usage across France in an attempt to prevent winter rationing. “The best energy is that which we don’t consume,” Macron said during a Monday press conference.
On Tuesday, German energy giant Uniper warned that the crisis may get worse before it gets better. “I have said this a number of times now over this year and I’m educating also policymakers. Look, the worst is still to come,” Uniper CEO Klaus-Dieter Maubach told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble.
“What we see on the wholesale market is 20 times the price that we have seen two years ago — 20 times. That is why I think we need to have really an open discussion with everyone taking responsibility on how to fix that,” he added.
Russia’s state-owned energy giant, Gazprom, indefinitely halted gas flows to Europe via a major pipeline, sparking fear of rationing across the continent.