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President Booed As Czechs Mark 25 Years Since Velvet Revolution

From The Archive - The Velvet Revolutioni
November 14, 2014
In November 1989 huge protests in Prague lead to the rapid collapse of Czechoslovakia's communist regime, the election of dissident playwright Vaclav Havel as president, and the restoration of democracy. Within months, the Soviet army had begun withdrawing from the country, and George Bush received a rapturous welcome when he became the first U.S. president to visit Prague. (Reuters)
WATCH: From The Archive - The Velvet Revolution

Czech President Milos Zeman was booed as he addressed an event marking the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

Hundreds of opponents of Zeman turned out for the November 17 event commemorating the end of communism in then-Czechoslovakia.

Demonstrators booed Zeman and threw apples and eggs at the Czech president, who has been criticized in his homeland for his pro-Russian stance and use of foul language in public.

One egg hit German President Joachim Gauck, who was a guest at the anniversary event along with the presidents of Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.

Gauck was reportedly shaken by the incident momentarily but continued his participation in the celebrations.

Some protesters specifically mentioned Zeman's perceived pro-Russian stance as a reason they showed up to heckle the Czech president.

PHOTO GALLERY: Thousands of Czechs held symbolic red cards in the air on November 17, in a protest against President Milos Zeman. Protesters were angry with what they regards as Zeman's pro-Russian stance on EU sanctions on Russia, his criticism of the Russian protest-punk group Pussy Riot, as well as his use of vulgar language during a recent radio interview.

  • Demonstrators show symbolic red cards to Czech President Milos Zeman during a protest rally in Prague on November 17.
  • The protesters accuse Zeman of cozying up to Russia. Their protest comes as Zeman hosts four Central European presidents at events marking the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.
  • A view in a traffic mirror shows the size of the crowd, who gathered on Narodni trida (National Street), the central boulevard that was the site of the anticommunist protest that sparked the 1989 revolution.
  • A small child also held aloft a homemade red card, as some protesters said it was time for Zeman to step down. Zeman was elected in 2013 to a four-year term.
  • Shop assistants joined the protest from windows overlooking the street.
  • As the Zeman protests took place, others lit candles at the Velvet Revolution memorial. No one was killed in the revolution -- the candles are to commemorate the people killed and imprisoned during the Communist Party's 41-year rule.

Earlier on November 17, Zeman gave an interview to a Russian TV channel saying that "there is simply a civil war in Ukraine" and calling Western sanctions on Russia a no-win strategy.

On November 17, 1989, a student protest in Prague was violently dispersed by police, triggering the peaceful collapse of communism in what was then Czechoslovakia.

As part of the celebrations, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka will fly to Washington to unveil a bust in the U.S. Congress of Vaclav Havel, the former dissident and president who led the protests against communist rule.

Havel died in 2011.

Unlike the Czech Republic, the anniversary is not a state holiday in Slovakia, although celebrations are scheduled there as well.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and CTK

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