Czech President Vaclav Klaus and his wife Livia Klausova marked the upcoming T.G. Masaryk Day (March 7th) by taking a 20 minute train ride in the region of Kladno, near Prague, in a historic steam-powered train once used by Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, Czechoslovakia's first president. Masaryk was born on March 7th, 1850 - that is, 156 years ago. Mr Klaus, his wife, and four grandchildren took part in Sunday's ride, looking out from Masaryk's original salon car - before meeting members of the public in Kladno. Later on Sunday: the president, his wife, and some 200 others took part in a special memorial ceremony at Lany Chateau honouring Masaryk's memory. Czechoslovakia's first president died at Lany in September 1937 at the age of 87, and is buried there along with his wife Charlotte, and son Jan and daughter Alice.
Agriculture Minister Jan Mladek has said that bird flu - the deadly H5N1 virus - has likely already reached the Czech Republic, although no cases have been uncovered yet. The minister made the comment on Sunday during a discussion programme on the commercial broadcaster TV Nova. On Sunday the spokesman for the Czech State Veterinary Authority, Josef Duben, also confirmed no cases of the virus had been found - with more than 500 wild and more than 100 domestic specimens all testing negative. All of the Czech Republic's neighbours - Poland the latest on Sunday - have now confirmed cases of the virus.
Former head of the Communist Party Miroslav Grebenicek has softened
recent criticism in which he indicated his party was "too soft" on the
government ruling Social Democrats. Speaking on a Sunday TV debate
programme, Mr Grebenicek backtracked on the statement made during the
week, saying that was no longer the case. He also praised his successor
Vojtech Filip. During the week Mr Grebenick threatened to give up his
candidacy to Parliament in upcoming national elections, if the
Communist Party did not take a stronger stance on the Social Democrats
- completing their 2nd successive term in government.
A number of polls have suggested that if elections were held today the Social Democrats would finish 2nd behind the right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party, with the Communists finishing third.
The Foreign Ministry has revealed that a ministry commission is currently weighing three proposals in a public tender on a project which will extensively map anti-Nazi activities in Czechoslovakia during World War II. The project is especially aimed at examining contributions by those members of Czechoslovakia's ethnic German minority who fought against the Nazis but suffered reprisals or injustice after the war.
Heavy snowfall in parts of the Czech Republic has continued to worsen conditions on some roads, especially in parts of Southern Bohemia and Moravia. The Czech Republic, like other parts of Central and Eastern Europe, has experienced one of its harsher winters in recent memory. On Sunday, snow fall played a role in delays on roads for example in the Prachitice region of Southern Bohemia, which saw 20 centimetres of new snow overnight. Drivers have been warned to proceed with caution. Road clearing crews spent much of Saturday night clearing extensive snowdrifts.
The Communist Party has officially launched its campaign towards this
year's national election to be held in June, criticising the country's
largest opposition party, the right-of-centre Civic Democrats,
currently leading in opinion polls. Party head Vojtech Filip indicated
that the current government coalition leaders, the left-of-centre
Social Democrats, have far more in common on policy issues, and there
are indications the Communist Party would be willing to support a
future minority Social Democrat government following elections in June.
All the same, this week saw former Communist Party leader Miroslav Grebenicek clash with his successor Mr Filip, whom he criticised for being too soft on the Social Democratic Party - in government now for two successive terms. The Communist Party officially announced its campaign on Saturday at Prague's Congress centre but its former chairman Miroslav Grebenicek was notably absent.
Specialists on Friday were called in to lay protective floating barriers around an oil slick discovered on the Elbe River. The slick has raised environmental concerns in both the Czech Republic and neighbouring Germany. 500 litres and 15 kilometres long, the slick was discovered on Friday morning near the north Bohemian city of Usti nad Labem, near the Czech-German border. The Ministry of Environment and Agriculture in the eastern German state of Saxony said it had been informed by the Czechs' steps to contain the spill. Exact causes of the contamination are not yet known, but it is possible the leak came either from a damaged pipeline or a freighter or truck accident. It is also possible the source of the slick was a leak from any of a number of chemical plants on the Elbe River.
In NHL action on Friday Czech player Ales Hemsky, a member of the Czechs' recent Bronze-medal team at the Turin Winter Olympics, was instrumental in helping his team, the Edmonton Oilers bury the San Jose Sharks. Hemsky scored the decisive goal with 1:07 left in the third period, cheekily sidestepping defenseman Josh Gorges and scoring artfully on San Jose's goalie, by sliding the puck between his pads. The Oilers' 3-2 win snaps a four-game losing streak, leaving the team momentarily in position to clinch an eighth and final play-off spot in the Western Conference.
The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, on an official visit to Brazil, has met with the country's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Mr Paroubek and President Lula met on Friday, discussing economic issues as well as domestic and foreign policy - with Mr Paroubek revealing plans for the Brazilian president to visit Prague in the coming months. The Czech prime minister stressed support for Brazil's effort to gain permanent member status in the United Nations Security Council, saying he expected that Brazil would show similar support for the Czech Republic, aspiring to become a Security Council elected member.
A dispute has arisen between Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and President Vaclav Klaus over the protocol of a visit to Prague by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Just before Mr Putin arrived this week, Mr Paroubek said cabinet ministers would not sign a treaty with Russia at the president's office at Prague Castle; he insisted that the ceremony take place at the Office of the Government a day later. In the end, however, the prime minister backed down and the signing took place at the Castle. The president's office has accused Mr Paroubek of attempting blackmail, while he said it had behaved incorrectly.
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