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Russians living in Prague stage anti-war rally

March 26, 2022

Thousands of people, mostly Russian nationals, have protested in the Czech capital against Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Organizers said it was important to show that Russian expatriates are not secret Putin supporters.

A protest by Russians in Prague in opposition to their country's invasion of Ukraine
Police said some 3,000 protesters participated in the rally under the slogan 'Russians against Putin'Image: Roman Vondrous/CTK/dpa/picture alliance

Thousands of mostly Russian nationals on Saturday protested in the Czech Republic against President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, calling on him to stop the war.

Organizers said some 5,000 people joined the "Russians against Putin" march in downtown Prague, while police put the turnout at about 3,000.

Some protesters carried banners calling on Russians to "raise their voice and fight the real enemy, not Ukraine" and labeled Putin as a killer.

Psychological aid for Ukrainian refugees

Russians rally around Ukraine

"We want to show that the Russians who live here are against Putin, against the war, that they support Ukraine," organizer Anton Litvin told the AFP news agency.

He said the Russians in Prague are "not Putinists, they are Europeans."

Another protester and former soldier, Oleg Golopyatov, said: "Just because we are Russians doesn't mean we are automatically for the war."

Golopyatov, who has lived in Prague for 15 years, added: "Ukraine is a normal country. It is terrible [what is happening there]."

Olga Buzenkova, an entrepreneur who moved from Moscow just a year ago, told AFP: "Russia has now become a fascist country. It's a repeat of 1938. We cannot ignore it and we cannot forgive it. Putin must be stopped."

Demonstrators also called on Putin to release political prisoners, including Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who was sentenced to nine years in jail earlier this week.

Czech Republic hosts large Russian diaspora

More than 45,000 Russian nationals lived in the Czech Republic at the end of last year, according to official figures.

There are a large number of Russian shops, some of which are now displaying Ukrainian flags or offering assistance to refugees.

Russians make up one of the largest minorities in the country, behind Ukrainians, Slovaks and Vietnamese.

The Czech government estimates 300,000 Ukrainians have fled to the country, in addition to the 200,000-strong diaspora before the invasion.

After a month, Ukraine war enters new phase

Russians distance themselves from Putin's propaganda

Besides their condemnation of the war, the protesters said they want to make it clear they are part of Czech society and not secret supporters of Putin.

In the run-up to the invasion, Russia had categorically rejected reports it planned to attack Ukraine.

Moscow presented the war as a "special military operation" to its own public, and state media has rebroadcast Putin's baseless claim that his enemies in Ukraine are Nazis.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Kremlin has spent billions of dollars on propaganda to reframe the war to the Russian people.

"You all know exactly what an enormous state propaganda system Russia has built," Zelenskyy said in a video message Friday night.

"Probably no one else in the world has spent such vast sums on lies."

mm/wd (AFP, dpa, Reuters)