Thousands march through Prague on anniversary of war in Ukraine

Several thousand people marched to the Ukrainian Embassy in Prague yesterday, where speeches were given by President-elect Petr Pavel and others. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 26.02.2023 10:00:00 (updated on 26.02.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Several events in Prague this weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, 2022. The largest demonstration took place on Saturday evening, as several thousand people marched from Letná Plain past the Russian Embassy in Prague.

The event ended in front of the Ukrainian Embassy in Prague, where Czech President-elect Petr Pavel and others addressed the crowd.

Saturday's event was organized through social media by the group Vidíme jasně (We See Clearly). New U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Bijan Sabet, British Ambassador to the Czech Republic Matthew Field, and Ukrainian charge d'affaires in Prague Vitalii Usatyi also gave speeches.

Pavel compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler during his speech outside the Ukrainian Embassy. He said it was striking how much Czechia had in common with Ukraine, pointing out similarities with the Sudetenland in pre-war Czechoslovakia.

"Before WWII, Hitler behaved in the same way as Putin now in relation to Ukraine. [Hitler] also abused the German minority in our Sudetenland and incited passion and violence that he then used as a pretext for suppression," Pavel said.

However, he added that Ukraine was fighting back and deserved respect. While the one-year anniversary of the war was a sad one, Pavel noted that it was also encouraging that the people of Ukraine were heroically defending their country.

During the beginning of the event at Letná Plain, Jiří Padevět gave an opening speech noting the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine coincided with the 75th anniversary of the communist takeover in Czechoslovakia, which took place in late February, 1948.

The date was also the 73rd anniversary of the murder of Czechoslovak priest Josef Toufar by communist secret police, Padevět added.

"Let us try at least by this march to send a message to the aggressor that we are standing on the side of Ukraine, on the side of the free world, resisting Eastern despotism," Padevět said.

U.S. Ambassador Sabet said he was proud of standing side by side with Czechs there and repeating the simple message of continued support for Ukraine. "Vivat Ukraine," he said in closing. British Ambassador Field thanked Ukraine for fighting on behalf of Europe.

Following the speeches and a video mapping show at the Interior Ministry in Prague, the crowd marched past the Russian Embassy in Prague. Some people shouted "shame!" and others planted Ukrainian flags in Boris Nemtsov Square outside the Embassy.

The event concluded peacefully with Pavel's speech and a concert on a temporary stage outside the Ukrainian Embassy. "No incidents violating public peace have occurred," police spokesperson Violeta Siřišťová told reporters at the event.

Saturday's event was one of many in Prague this weekend on the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On Friday, the city thanked volunteers and organizations for helping refugees during a ceremony at Prague's Main Train Station.

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