Czech President Milos Zeman shocked journalists invited to a press event on June 14 when he set a huge pair of red underpants on fire.
The pants are similar to those that the Ztohoven protest group raised over Prague Castle, where the presidential standard usually flies, back in 2015. Ztohoven said at the time their action was intended as an expression of free speech to highlight their disagreement Zeman’s position, while the colour reflected the president’s closeness to Russia and China.
The reasons for Zeman’s own stunt, in which the 73-year-old was helped by two firemen in protective gear, are unclear, though the president has a history of taunting the media.
The announcement of the ad hoc event had again raised speculation that Zeman, who is understood to be in poor health, was about to resign. He appeared frail at the burning, walking with the help of a cane, but was still in a combative mood.
"I apologise to the journalists whose intelligence I tested, unsuccessfully as always," Zeman told reporters in the Prague Castle gardens.
Footage from the event shows the president being handed the pants, which he then gives to two firefighters who push them into a flaming fire pit.
"The time of underwear in politics is over … I'm sorry to make you look like little idiots, you really don't deserve it," he said, according to local media reports.
Fellow politicians criticised the president’s actions, with Markéta Adamová, MP and first deputy chair of the opposition TOP 09 party, tweeting on June 14: “I am sorry for the firefighters who had to be there today, instead of devoting themselves to protecting and helping those who really need it.”
The deputy chairman of the opposition ODS, Martin Baxa, was even more direct, commenting on Twitter: “I do not need 140 characters, just one word: PSYCHO!”
Zeman previously shocked reporters last year when he arrived at a press conference holding a toy Kalashnikov labelled "for journalists”. Earlier in 2017 he told Russian President Vladimir Putin that "journalists should be liquidated".
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