By Robert Muller
PRAGUE – About 80,000 protesters thronged Prague’s central square on Sunday to support Ukraine and the Czech prime minister told the crowd the country still remembered its own terror of Russian tanks rolling into the capital more than five decades ago.
Protesters filled the 750-metre long Wenceslas Square, site of the biggest demonstrations in the country’s history, chanting and waving blue and yellow Ukrainian flags and signs with messages such as “Hands off Ukraine” and “Putin War Criminal”.
The protests come as fighting in Ukraine reached a fourth day following Russia’s invasion, which Moscow calls a special operation, the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two.
“Of course I had to come here today, because one must stand up to evil,” pensioner Jindrich Synek told Reuters. “I have experienced it in this square a couple of times already.”
Wenceslas Square was home to demonstrations during the 1989 Velvet Revolution that ended decades of Soviet-backed communist rule, as well as protests in 1968 when Soviet-led troops invaded communist Czechoslovakia to end reforms that upset Moscow.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said the National Museum building at the top of the square still had bullet holes from Russian invaders in 1968.
“Our historical experience is on that facade,” he said. “That is one of the reasons why we cannot appease tanks coming to some country, crushing the desire for freedom and democracy.”
The Czech Republic is home to about 260,000 Ukrainians, many of whom joined the crowds and helped lead chants in Ukrainian of “Glory to Ukraine”. Some Russians against the war also joined the protest.
“We want to support Ukraine and the brave people there,” Petr Kopejska, a therapist, said. “It is also about us, about our security.”