The freezing cold weather has claimed another victim in the Czech Republic. A fifty year old homeless man was found dead under one of Prague's bridges, where he reportedly fell into a fire he made in an attempt to keep warm during the night. Police say the man most likely consumed some alcohol and fell into a deep sleep in front of the fire. The cold weather this winter has already claimed ten lives.
The concentration of cyanide in the river Labe has dropped below the permissible limit of 10 micrograms per litre. Experts from the river administration say that the present levels no longer present a threat to fish or river life. The concentration of cyanide is gradually declining due to the higher inflow of water from the Vltava river and the fact that river management has been increasing the flow from several reservoirs. The cyanide leak into the Labe from a chemical plant in central Bohemia on January 9th killed many tons of fish in the river and caused concern in neighbouring Germany where the Labe /Elbe/ river flows. Environmentalists say that the full extent of damage to river life will only become apparent in the spring. The chemical plant responsible faces a fine of up to 10 million crowns.
The fugitive Czech businessman Radovan Krejcir is said to have commissioned a false bill of exchange in order to discredit the ruling Social Democrats. Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan told the commercial TV station Nova that he had information that Krejcir commissioned several of his accomplices in the Czech Republic with the task of producing a false bill of exchange, which was to serve as proof that the billionaire had lent the ruling Social Democrats 60 million crowns for their election campaign. The mentioned accomplices were reportedly arrested before they could comply with the demand. Krejcir, who fled to the Seychelles last summer, has not so far been able to provide any evidence to support his claim.
The South Korean car maker Hyundai has confirmed a major investment in the Czech Republic. According to the Czech internet daily Novinky, Hyuandai said in a letter to the Turkish industry minister, that it had decided to build its new car plant in Nosovice, north Moravia, mainly thanks to the lower tax burden. A Hyuindai spokesman later confirmed that the firm was sending a delegation to the Czech Republic to sign a contract worth 30 to 40 billion crowns. The new plant is expected to decrease unemployment in the region. Scheduled to begin operation in 2008 the plant will employ some 3,000 people and provide more jobs for people in supplier companies.
The Czech military says it is not planning to take its Russian made transport planes out of operation in the wake of Thursday's plane crash which killed 42 Slovak soldiers returning from a KFOR mission in Kosovo. It is not yet clear what caused the Slovak military's Russian-made Antonov 24 veer off course and crash in a mountain area close to the border. A Czech military spokesman said that the Czech air force discarded its last Antonov 24 last year, and the remaining Antonov 26 planes were reliable and well-maintained.
Finland and Spain have indicated they may open their labour markets to the new EU members before the end of this year. The Czech Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach, who attended a meeting with his EU counterparts in the Austrian town of Villach on Friday said that although no decision had been reached the diplomatic signals from Madrid and Helsinki were encouraging. Germany and Austria, on the other hand, have made it clear that they will extend the labour market restrictions by another three years.
The Czech women's tennis number one Nicole Vaidisova has advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open, after beating Flavia Pennetta of Italy. Meanwhile, Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic was knocked out of the competition by Slovak-born Martina Hingis. Benesova had previously overcome fifth-seed Mary Pierce of France.
A gathering of the ultra right National Party at Lety, the site of a wartime camp for Romanies, sparked an incident with Roma rights activists. Witnesses say there was a brief skirmish and two Roma rights activists, who shouted "away with neo-Nazis" were detained by the police. One of them was Markus Pape, a well known Roma rights lawyer. The police say that Mr. Pape committed a misdemeanour when he interrupted the gathering of the National Party. Mr. Pape says that he was physically attacked by three members of the party and will press charges.
The Czech minister of defence, Karel Kuhnl, has described as a terrible tragedy Thursday's air crash in which 42 Slovak soldiers died. Mr Kuhnl said the crash was all the sadder for the Czech Republic because the Slovaks had served side by side with Czech soldiers in the United Nations KFOR mission in Kosovo. He also expressed his deepest sympathy to Slovakia's defence minister, Juraj Liska.
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