By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife with BosNewsLife News Center in Budapest
PRAGUE/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)-- Politicians and experts raised questions Saturday, September 29, about national security in the Czech Republic after a man was able to fire a replica pistol at President Václav Klaus and calmly walk away.
It briefly appeared the Czech head of state would be welcomed with usual niceties while greeting crowds to open a new bridge in the northern village of Chrastava, 100 kilometers north of Prague.
That soon changed.
A young man, dressed in a military camouflage uniform was able to fire several shots at close range.
He used a replica pistol that uses small plastic balls as bullets.
Politicians and security experts view the incident as a serious failure by presidential bodyguards as Klaus could have been killed had the plastic gun been real.
A visible surprised Klaus was seen turning his head to bodyguards and he reportedly said: "You have not reacted well."
(Watch here the latest Czech footage from the attack)
The attacker, whose name was not identified, even had time to give interviews to media saying his action was a "protest against politicians who are blind and deaf to the cries of the people" and against government policies which "starved a third of the nation".
He said he was a manual worker, and gave his political affiliation as communist but said he was not active in the party. Communist leader Vojtěch Filip was quick to criticize the man's actions, saying his party "distanced themselves from the attack" and "condemns" violence, Radio Prague reported.
Police only detained the 26-year-old man after his media statements.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas told media that people had the right to express their views but that these expressions "should not exceed acceptable norms".
President Klaus, who continued with the ceremony, was later briefly hospitalized with light injuries in his right arm, officials said.
Police have launched an investigating into why the president's bodyguards did not intervene in time.
Social Democrat deputy chair Lubomír Zaorálek said the attack was “unbelievable” and blamed the president’s security service for letting the attacker close to President Klaus.
The head of the president's security service, Jiří Sklenka, said however that they "were experienced" enough to see "a fake gun was used" and that they "did not want to use a real gun" to kill the attacker.
He said a similar decision was made about three years ago when two men behaved suspiciously towards the president.
However the Ministry of Interior and police say they view Friday's attack as "very serious" and that there could be "serious consequences" if bodyguards failed to adequately protest the president of the Czech Republic.
Klaus, 71, whose second and final term ends next year, is a popular figure in the central European Union nation. Yet his sharp criticism of the euro currency, EU integration and efforts to halt global warming as well as his perceived friendly stance towards Russia have won him some enemies.
The conservative politician is the Czech Republic's second head of state following the 1989 collapse of the Communist regime, when dissidents and devoted Christians were among those being targeted. His country is considered among the most atheist nations in Europe.
(BosNewsLife's NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals especially from, but not limited to, (former) Communist and autocratic nations.)