The government has decided to sell its stakes in the Sokolovska uhelna and OKD coal mines, in what is the first major privatisation it has achieved in almost two years in office. Sokolovska uhelna is to be bought by Sokolovska tezebni, which is controlled by managers of its mines. The government's minority stake in the black coal company OKD is being bought by majority shareholder Karbon Invest.
The mayor of the central Bohemian town of Kladno, Milan Volf, has been remanded in custody on charges of abuse of office. Prosecutors accuse Mr Volf, a member of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, of illegally transferring 40 million crowns from the town's budget to Kladno's ice hockey club. He also stands accused of buying himself an expensive Audi car without seeking the council's permission. Mr Volf could face three years in prison if found guilty of abuse of office.
Defence Ministry officials have said the four hundred-strong Czech-Slovak K-FOR contingent in Kosovo will most likely remain at full strength for an extra two months, in the wake of the recent unrest in the province. The Defence Ministry had planned to reduce the contingent. The Czech Army has received a request from K-FOR commanders not to reduce the number of troops serving in Kosovo.
Slovak citizens living in the Czech Republic will not be able to vote in the forthcoming presidential election in Slovakia. The Slovak Embassy says Slovak citizens will have to travel home to Slovakia if they want to take part in the election, the first round of which is held on April 3rd. Slovaks make up the largest minority in the Czech Republic, with almost 200,000 people claiming Slovak nationality in the 2001 census. However not all of them have Slovak citizenship, meaning not all of them are eligible to vote.
Vaclav Klaus has criticised the chairman of the Christian Democrat group in the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, for statements he made after the Czech president cancelled a meeting with him while he was on a visit to Prague. Mr Poettering told Czech and German journalists that such things would only happen in a dictatorship. Mr Klaus has written a letter of protest to Mr Poettering, the president's spokesman said on Tuesday. Mr Klaus, who is sceptical about European Union integration, said such behaviour would not give an encouraging signal to the Czech public or politicians as the country prepares for imminent accession to the Union.
The police have arrested a gang of nine Czechs and other nationals who they say organised the smuggling of Chinese people into Europe. The arrests followed co-operation with police in Italy, Germany and Austria. During the time the gang were under surveillance they smuggled around 800 people through the Czech Republic, a police spokesperson said on Tuesday.
The Usti nad Labem regional authority has begun handing out leaflets in German alerting tourists who cross the border from the neighbouring state of Saxony of the fact that child prostitution is a crime. Regional governor Jiri Sulc took part in the campaign on Tuesday, handing out leaflets at a border crossing, the website Novinky reported. The German branch of UNICEF published a report in November saying the Czech-German border region was rife with child prostitution, though Czech authorities say it is not a common problem.
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