Czechs protest pro-Russian president, accuse him of treason

US & World

People attend a demonstration in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, April 29, 2021. Thousands of Czechs have rallied in the capital against President Milos Zeman, accusing him of treason for his pro-Russian stance over the alleged participance of Russian spies in a Czech huge ammunition explosion. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

PRAGUE (AP) — Thousands of Czechs rallied Thursday in the capital against President Milos Zeman, accusing the pro-Russian leader of treason over the alleged participation of Russian spies in a huge 2014 ammunition explosion in the Czech Republic.

The protesters, who wore face masks and followed social distancing rules, spread out through central Wenceslas Square in Prague. Other rallies were held in dozens of towns and cities across the country.

They called on the Czech Parliament’s upper house, the Senate, to bring treason charges against Zeman. They said his recent comments sided with Russia and cast doubt on the findings of the country’s security and intelligence services about the 2014 blast, calling him “a servant of Kremlin” and a “security risk” for the country.

The Senate already announced that such a move is being considered.

Czech leaders said on April 17 they have evidence that points to the participation of two agents from Russia’s military spy agency in the depot explosion that killed two people. Russia has denied that.

The same two Russians were charged by British authorities in absentia in 2018 with trying to kill former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in the English city of Salisbury.

After a week of silence, Zeman, who is know for pro-Russian views, said Sunday that the explosion could have caused by human error and urged authorities to investigate that option. The government ministers said that’s not true.

Unlike other lawmakers and officials briefed on the investigation, Zeman claimed there was no conclusive evidence about the Russian’s involvement. His words were widely repeated by Russian media and authorities.

The European Union’s 26 other nations and NATO allies expressed their full solidarity with the Czech Republic.

The findings resulted in a serious diplomatic crisis between the Czech Republic and Russia, with dozens of diplomats ordered to leave their respective embassies.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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