Tens of thousands protest in Prague against Czech government, EU and NATO

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PRAGUE (Reuters) - An estimated 70,000 people protested in Prague against the Czech government on Saturday, calling on the ruling coalition to do more to control soaring energy prices and voicing opposition to the European Union and NATO.

Organisers of the demonstration from a number of far-right and fringe political groups including the Communist party, said the central European nation should be neutral militarily and ensure direct contracts with gas suppliers, including Russia.

Police estimates put the number of protesters at around 70,000 by mid-afternoon.

"The aim of our demonstration is to demand change, mainly in solving the issue of energy prices, especially electricity and gas, which will destroy our economy this autumn," event co-organizer Jiri Havel told iDNES.cz news website.

The protest at Wenceslas Square in the city centre was held a day after the government survived a no-confidence vote amid opposition claims of inaction against inflation and energy prices.

The vote showed how Europe's energy crisis is fuelling political instability as soaring power prices stoke inflation, already at levels unseen in three decades.

Prime Minister Petr Fiala, who leads the centre-right, five-party coalition, told CTK news service on Saturday that the protesters did not have the country's best interests at heart.

"The protest on Wenceslas Square was called by forces that are pro-Russian, are close to extreme positions and are against the interests of the Czech Republic," he said.

(Reporting by Michael Kahn, Editing by Ros Russell)