Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala is blaming pro-Russian forces for mass demonstrations this weekend that saw tens of thousands of people protest against the government, the European Union and NATO amid soaring energy prices and inflation.
The “Czechia First” demonstration saw 70,000 people gather to protest the government in a development the Czech prime minister is blaming on elements influenced by Russian propaganda.
“It is clear that Russian propaganda and disinformation campaigns repeatedly appear on our territory and that someone is simply succumbing to them,” Fiala said.
Protesters, brought together by the Communist Party, the Freedom party, the Direct Democratic Party, and other groups labeled as “radical”–both far-left and far-right–called on the government to address soaring energy prices and the highest cost of living since the early 1990s for everything from housing to consumer goods.
Protesters called for a new deal with Russia for gas supplies, just a day after Moscow said natural gas flows through Nord Stream 1 to Europe that had been cut off for maintenance would not be restored on Saturday as scheduled, and would be delayed indefinitely.
Inflation has hit 17% and is marching towards 20% in the coming months, according to Fortune, citing the Czech central bank.
The mass protests also came a day after a no-confidence vote against the five-party coalition government failed.
While the prime minister blamed Russian influence, other coalition government officials warned against sidelining real economic issues facing the people.
News reports noted that some demonstrators donned T-shirts favoring Russian President Vladimir Putin and some carried anti-EU and anti-NATO posters.
Social unrest has been on the rise in Europe since Russia invaded Ukraine, with Western sanctions and soaring energy prices creating a toxic mix along with an influx of Ukrainian refugees. Tensions are rising ahead of a winter that is expected to see a worsening of the energy crisis.