The Czech military will reportedly get new Tatra personnel carriers several years later than planned earlier because of cuts in the state budget. Deputy Defence Minister Martin Belcik has told the daily Pravo the deal would be postponed but not cancelled. The Defence Ministry was to sign a contract on the purchase of more than 550 vehicles worth 6.8 billion crowns (the equivalent of around 310 million US dollars) by the year's end. In addition to deputy defence minister said that the lower budget will also stop other investment projects, including the planned repairs or completion of a number of bases, the modernisation of computer equipment, and improvement to Czech-owned Russian-built helicopters. The postponement of the Tatra purchase could still face reversal under a new government, expected to be appointed in a few days' time.
The Ministry for Regional Development has revealed that the Czech Republic will successfully draw all EU funds allocated for 2004, a total of 12.5 billion crowns, the equivalent of around 570 million US dollars. On Thursday Radko Martinek, the outgoing minister for regional affairs, said the situation with drawing funds from the European Union had improved, although problems with certain programmes - for instance in Prague - remain. Even so, the outgoing minister has expressed hope that as much as 80 percent of funds for the years 2004 - 2006 will be used.
August 31st marks the 70th anniversary of Czechoslovak Radio's first regular broadcasts on shortwave from Czechoslovakia. The first in 1936 took place on a Monday. Seventy years later, the foreign broadcast departments at Czech Radio operate as Czech Radio 7 - Radio Prague. The station broadcasts in six languages on shortwave, via the internet, and on satellite. At a press conference on the occasion of the anniversary, Radio Prague's director Miroslav Krupicka pointed out that the station's strengths were based on both quality reporting from the Czech Republic, as well as on technological innovations such as pod-casting. Listeners from Europe and the US were also able to recently attend a special event in Prague marking the anniversary.
The Austrian police have detained two arms traffickers from Vienna and Lower Austria who allegedly acquired an arsenal of weapons in the Czech Republic. The APA Austrian news agency issued the report. Detectives had been monitoring the suspects for some time, even wiretapping phone calls. During a property search, police reportedly uncovered almost thirty firearms, two gas pistols and some 13,500 rounds of ammunition. According to police, both detained men probably planned to sell the weapons illegally in Austria.
Actor and journalist Martin Stepanek is likely to be the country's next
culture minister, in the new government being formed by Prime Minister
designate Mirek Topolanek. Mr Stepanek told journalists that he met the
prime minister designate on Thursday and had accepted Mr Topolanek's
offer. Originally, Mr Topolanek offered the post of culture minister in
his cabinet to Czech general consul in Los Angeles, Margita Fuchsova,
but she turned down the post. The prime minister designate intends to
submit a list of ministers in his cabinet to President Vaclav Klaus on
Mr Stepanek, who is 59, and worked extensively for Radio Free Europe in the past, said he viewed the proposal as an honour.
A court in the eastern region of Olomouc has handed twenty-three-year
old Martin Jas a three year sentence for his part in a brutal attack on
Romany couple in their home three years ago. He and two others - who were sentenced in June - tore into the couple's home under the pretence they were police officers, cutting the man, and hitting his wife, who was pregnant at the time, with a thrown cobble-stone. The court heard that she suffered permanent damage to her eyesight as a result. Zdena Polakova, representing the couple, indicated she is far from satisfied with Thursday's ruling, calling it the lightest possible sentence for such a crime.
In June, Mr Jas' accomplices received their sentences: one, a three-year suspended sentence, the other, three years and three months in prison.
Four people have been detained by police for allegedly producing and selling counterfeit tickets for pop singer Madonna's upcoming appearances in the Czech capital. Madonna is due to perform in Prague on September 6th and 7th, her first ever stage appearance in the Czech Republic. The four people arrested Wednesday - believed to be members of an organised gang - are thought to have produced some three hundred counterfeit tickets, selling either on the street or over the Internet. In home searches police seized fake tickets, counterfeiting equipment, illegally-owned firearms, and around 500,000 crowns in cash (the equivalent of almost 23,000 US dollars). Police now also have evidence that the gang allegedly also produced fake tickets for a recent Red Hot Chili Peppers concert.
A court has ruled that the former chairman of the Communist Party, Miroslav Grebenicek, must apologise to activist Jan Sinagl, whom he publicly insulted during a May Day rally in 2005. Mr Sinagl was protesting on the spot the Communist Party's traditional gathering: to this day many observers see the party as both unreformed and unapologetic for its past in Czechoslovakia. In the incident in 2005, Mr Grebenicek publicly called Mr Sinagl "a primitive" - a statement that the court on Thursday found encroached on the activist's rights. Following the ruling, Mr Grebenicek will have to cover all costs of the trial, as well as take out ads in two national newspapers to issue his apology.
An Internet news site - aktualne.cz - has suggested that the Czech Republic may be more suitable than Poland for a possible US missile defence facility. The information, according to the server, comes from findings by expert teams which visited sites in both Poland and the Czech Republic this summer. Experts visited three areas in the Czech Republic alone, assessing logistics and infrastructure. But, according to aktualne.cz, a positive assessment does not necessarily mean the US will opt for the Czech Republic: political criteria, too, are playing a role. Early public opinion polls suggested that a majority of Czechs would prefer the base to be built elsewhere, and a number of political parties have raised the question of a possible referendum on the issue. According to some sources the US may propose a radar site in the Czech Republic rather than the actual missile defence facility. A final decision by the US is expected next month.
Stanislav Griga has been fired as coach for the Sparta Prague football team after just eleven months at the helm. Sparta have won just two of five games since the beginning of the new season, and Mr Griga's departure was expected. His replacement should be made known on Friday: a hot candidate for the post is reportedly Michal Bilek, currently coaching Viktoria Pilsen.
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