Thousands of people in Prague demonstrate in favor of Ukraine and demand an end to the violence
Czechs, Ukrainians, Russians and other foreign nationals stood side by side in Wenceslas Square chanting “Freedom for Ukraine”, “Stop the war” and “Out the dictator”.
The demonstration of some 60,000 people, called by the Million Moments for Democracy movement, was addressed by the Ukrainian ambassador in Prague, members of the Ukrainian minority and human rights activists.
The response to the invasion of Ukraine was particularly strong among the Czechs for whom it reminds of the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The whole political scene is united in the need to help the country in any way possible.
The Czech government has lobbied for the toughest sanctions possible from the European Union, including excluding Russia from the SWIFT payment system. He also introduced his own set of unilateral sanctions against Russia and said he was ready to take in a number of Ukrainian refugees.
Speaking after an emergency meeting of the Czech government on Sunday, Prime Minister Fiala said the democratic world must stand strong and united in the face of this aggression. He said the latest developments in Ukraine showed the importance of investing the required 2% of GDP in defence, which the Czech Republic had pledged to fulfill by 2025. The Czech Prime Minister said that isolating Russia would be costly, but Europe must be prepared for the cost of future European security.
The government on Sunday approved a new delivery of weapons and military systems to Ukraine as well as hundreds of tons of fuel at the request of President Volodymyr Zelensky. The delivery, worth 400 million crowns, was dispatched on Sunday afternoon. On Saturday, the country sent machine guns, submachine guns, sniper rifles, pistols and ammunition worth 188 million crowns to Ukraine, which have already been delivered.
In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Czech Republic stopped issuing visas to Russian citizens, except in humanitarian cases. The authorities will also examine residence visas already issued for Russians living in the Czech Republic. Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said he would urge other EU countries to implement a similar measure in the Schengen area.
In addition, the Ministry of Finance will inspect Russian companies or companies with Russian owners regarding the taking of public funds in the Czech Republic.
The Czech government will also speed up the process of withdrawing two post-Soviet banks – the International Bank for Economic Cooperation and the International Investment Bank – and will ask other EU members to do the same.
The cabinet also on Friday approved the potential deployment of up to 580 Czech troops in the North Atlantic Alliance’s Rapid Reaction Force anywhere in NATO and closed its airspace to Russian airlines.
It is not often that an issue unites the Czech political scene and the citizens of the country in this way.
According to the results of a poll conducted by the STEM/MARK agency, 97% of Czechs approve of the government’s decision to take in refugees and many have offered to house them in their homes. The country’s charitable agencies have already collected more than 100 million crowns in public donations for Ukraine and many people are traveling to the Slovak or Polish border with Ukraine to distribute humanitarian aid there and help any way necessary.