Protesters againt Covid restrictions, March 2021. Credit: KB / BD.

Rise of Czech Anti-System Extremism Linked To Pro-Kremlin Sentiment, Says Report

Extremism in the Czech Republic continues to be dominated by the anti-system movement, whose representatives mostly express disrespect for the Czech state and its institutions and admiration for the Russian regime, the Interior Ministry said in a report on extremism for the second half of 2023, published today.

These activists often present false or misleading information and conspiracy theories, the report said.

According to the ministry, the anti-system movement has completely eclipsed the traditional extremist and xenophobic populist scene in the Czech Republic. “The Czech neo-Nazi movement has not made any public demonstrations. Older veterans participated only in private events,” said the report.

On the contrary, representatives of the anti-system movement made themselves visible at various public gatherings and through their activities on social media. Their activities were mainly covered by the disinformation media.

“The unifying element of this movement is criticism, disrespect and non-recognition for the institutions of the Czech state, as well as admiration for the current regime in the Russian Federation,” the Interior Ministry wrote. However, the ministry said the leading personalities of the anti-system movement do not offer any specific political programme, but focus on misleading information and conspiracy theories. Some publish threats or commit criminal activity.

The most notable case was that of Tomas Cermak, who was convicted of several crimes, including supporting and promoting terrorism. He failed to report to prison and was subsequently detained in Poland. “He was then presented as a hero and martyr within the anti-system movement, and fundraising was organised for him,” the Interior Ministry said.

Police investigators and prosecutors have also been looking into the case of people who took part in a riot at the trial of former journalist Jana Peterkova.

“The spectrum of pro-Kremlin manifestations among supporters of the anti-system movement is wide,” the authors wrote. These include admiration for the Russian regime, adopting pro-Russian attitudes toward the war in Ukraine, or presenting the symbols of the Wagner Group. Representatives also frequently speak publicly against Ukraine and Ukrainians.

The report says police officers recorded 181 hate crimes last year, 32 more than in the previous year. They prosecuted 98 people, mostly for violence against a group of people or against an individual.

According to the report, police charged 23 people for violence against a group of people or against an individual. Another 19 were prosecuted for defamation of a racial, ethnic or other group, and the same number for incitement to national and racial hatred. The charges also include people who committed intentional bodily harm or made dangerous threats.

The most common offence recorded by the police was incitement to national and racial hatred. The majority of the victims of hate crimes (25) were Roma, followed by Jews (18), and members of the LGBT+ community (13).

Most hate crimes recorded by the police (92) occurred in Prague, followed by the Usti nad Labem Region (22). The highest number of prosecution cases was also in the capital city, followed by the Moravian-Silesian and Plzen regions.

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