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Thousands Rally Against Czech President Over Russia Stance

 Police estimated that some 10,000 people protested in Prague's central Wenceslas Square.
Police estimated that some 10,000 people protested in Prague's central Wenceslas Square.

PRAGUE -- Thousands of Czechs have rallied in Prague against President Milos Zeman, calling for his removal from office and condemning what opponents say are his pro-Russia views.

The rally in Wenceslas Square on April 29 came as the Czech government has accused Russia’s GRU military intelligence of being behind a fatal ammunition depot explosion in 2014.

In response, the Czech government announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats it considered to be spies, setting off a string of tit-for-tat moves that have brought relations between Prague and Moscow to a nadir.

Zeman, whose role is largely ceremonial, appeared to contradict the government in a televised address to the nation on April 25, saying that are two theories about what caused the explosion of a munitions depot near the eastern Czech town of Vrbetice in 2014.

He said that one version of events is that Russian intelligence was involved in the deadly explosion. The other version, he said, was that the blast was caused by the inexpert handling of ammunition.

Zeman is circulating "the same fairy tales as the Russian disinformation pages and Russian propaganda," said Benjamin Roll, head of the group A Million Moments for Democracy that organized the protest, which police estimated at 10,000 people.

The protesters demand the Senate bring treason charges against Zeman.

Slovakia, Romania, and the Baltic states have also ejected Russian diplomats in solidarity with the Czech Republic, while Bulgaria leveled its own accusations at Russia over a series of blasts at its weapons and armament facilities over the past 10 years.

Sofia is also linking Russia to a murder attempt against an arms dealer and two other Bulgarian citizens.

Russia has denied any involvement in the blasts.

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