PRAGUE (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Czechs rallied in Prague's main square on Sunday against rising populism and extremism, two days after a coalition of far-right political movements, fringe groups and the Communist party held a protest in the same location.
Waving Czech, U.S., NATO and Ukrainian flags, many in the crowd voiced support for Ukraine in the war against Russia, in contrast to the protest on Friday when organizers who oppose the European Union and NATO called for direct talks with Moscow about gas supplies.
Signs on the podium on Sunday read "Czechia against fear" and "We can handle it" as founders of the Million Moments for Democracy --the group that organized the event -- told the crowd that despite fears over high energy prices and the war in Ukraine the future of democracy was at stake.
"Thank you for coming to face your fear," the group's founders said in unison to the crowd. "It is understandable that many people are afraid. However, it is not always bad, fear is a good servant and helps us survive."
The demonstration also featured a video appearance from Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska, who urged people to remain focused on what is happening in her country.
"We will not let Russia drag us or the whole world into darkness," said in Ukrainian. "Darkness will never win. As long as people don't close their eyes to war, our light will never go out."
High energy prices, fuelled by the war in Ukraine, have piled pressure on governments across Europe to cushion the blow of mounting energy costs for consumers and businesses.
In the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Petr Fiala's government has signed up to EU sanctions against Russia and taken a tough stance over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. It has also adopted a string of measures, including financial aid for companies and price caps on electricity for households.
(Reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by Frances Kerry)