The Czech Republic is marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
The traditional events such as a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Monument on Prague’s Vítkov hill have had to be modified due to the coronavirus crisis.
President Miloš Zeman, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, members of Parliament, war veterans and church dignitaries arrived at the site separately to lay wreaths and bow to those who laid down their lives for freedom.
Ceremonies at the memorial of the Winged Lion in Klárov, honouring the 2,500 Czechoslovak men and women who served in the British Royal Air Force during WWII, Prague’s Olšany cemetery and other locations are similarly restricted.
Many events have had to be moved online. May 8 is a state holiday in the Czech Republic.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has spoken out in defence of Czech politicians who are under police protection after making decisions that have angered Russia.
Secretary General Stoltenberg told Czech Television that NATO strongly rejected attempts to intimidate democratically elected politicians.
"Any attempt to use force or intimidate elected representatives is an attempt to undermine democracy as such and we must make it emphatically clear that this is unacceptable,” Stoltenberg said.
Three Prague mayors have been given police protection over the removal of a monument to Red Army commander Ivan Konev in Prague 6, the construction of one to the Vlasov army on the outskirts of the city and the renaming of a street in honour of the slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
The incidents have soured Czech-Russian relations and cast a shadow over the end-of-war celebrations.
Czech sympathizers of the Russian motorcycle club Night Wolves paid homage to the memory of Russian soldiers killed during World War II in Prague's Olšany Cemetery on Friday.
Among them was MP Jaroslav Foldyna, who arrived at the cemetery with the pro-Russian activist Jiří Černohorský. Due to closed borders, the ceremony took place without the Night Wolves this year.
Members of the bikers’ club annually organize a ride across Europe to Berlin to pay their respects to Russian war heroes. Many countries view their presence as a provocation and a security risk.
A three-meter-high, hand-made wrought iron arch covered with 52 blooms has been erected in the town Kdyně, in south Bohemia in memory of WWII heroes.
The arch is the work of former police lieutenant Jiří Brož who left the ranks of the police after 20 years in service and took up the tradition of blacksmith craftsmanship which has been in his family for generations.
Brož told the ctk newsagency that originally the arch was conceived as a monument to war heroes but that in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic it had acquired a new dimension and now also represented hope for the future.
The majority of working Czechs - 60 percent – are concerned about the economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis, according to the results of a survey conducted by AMI Communications.
One-fifth of respondents fear a drop in income; one in ten fear losing their jobs or not getting paid.
Due to the coronavirus situation, a quarter of respondents switched to a partial or full home office, and one in six employees could not work at all because of closed shops and services.
The Czech Republic had 8,031 confirmed cases of coronavirus on Friday morning, with 57 new cases reported on Thursday. 270 people have died and 4,371 have recovered from the disease. 275 people are currently hospitalized, 52 of them in serious condition. Close to 287,000 people have been tested for the virus to date.
The highest number of cases is reported in Prague –now at 1,800. South Bohemia is the least infected region with only 179 confirmed cases.
Saturday should be partly cloudy to overcast with rain in the south-western parts of the country and day temperatures between 20 and 24 degrees Celsius.