President Vaclav Klaus began an official visit to Russia on Thursday. On Friday, he is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and later travel to the Republic of Tatarstan in the Volga Federal District. President Klaus is accompanied by his wife Livia, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek, Industry and Trade Minister Martin Riman and other officials as well as around a hundred Czech businessmen. President Klaus's four-day trip is the first ever visit to Russia by a Czech head of state.
The Prague City Court has ruled that British tourist Malcolm Tuffin, who was seriously injured when a 30-metre tall Christmas tree fell on him in December 2003, is entitled to compensation worth 560,000 crowns (27,000 USD). The court also overturned an earlier ruling ordering the city of Prague to pay more than 110,000 dollars in compensation. Mr Tuffin suffered fractures to the spine and femur bones when strong winds brought down the tree in a crowded Christmas market on Prague's Old Town Square. The court has also ruled the Prague City Hall and the company operating the Christmas market were responsible for the accident.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has said the Finance Ministry will not disclose the details of the settlement with the Japanese bank Nomura concerning the case of the collapsed Czech bank IPB in which Nomura had invested heavily. Mr Topolanek said the reason was a pending arbitration between the Czech state and the CSOB bank which took over Nomura in 2000. The Finance Ministry had announced in March that the agreement would be disclosed at the beginning of April at the latest. Deputy Chairman of the lower house, Lubomir Zaoralek, says the decision by the Finance Ministry not to disclose the agreement is in breach of the law.
Senate Chairman Premysl Sobotka has condemned the blockades of
Czech-Austrian border crossings by Austrian anti-nuclear protesters. He
said the blockades were a step against the abolition of borders within
the European Union and an effort to build new barriers. Mr Sobotka
added that the blockades amounted to unacceptable pressure whose impact
is unrelated to the issue of nuclear safety at the Temelin power
station in South Bohemia. Mr Sobotka also said in a statement that
these acts were happening with the consent of the Austrian authorities.
Meanwhile, the first unit of the Temelin nuclear power plant had to be closed down on Thursday due to a fault in the cooling system. The second unit remains in operation. It is the second time this week that the reactor had to be closed down due to a technical fault.
The President of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Vaclav Paces, has said the academy may find itself in severe financial difficulties in 2008. Under an earlier 2008 state budget proposal, the academy was supposed to receive one billion crowns less than this year. Under a revised state budget draft, the amount allocated for research in 2008 would be by 80 million crowns lower than in 2007.
The Czech Republic's embassy to South Africa has filed a request with the South African foreign office asking that the Czech fugitive billionaire Radovan Krejcir be remanded in custody for 40 days instead of 18 days as originally proposed. In the meantime the Czech Justice Ministry plans to lodge an extradition request with the South African authorities. Radovan Krejcir was arrested at Johannesburg airport at the weekend after spending nearly two years in exile in the Seychelles. Mr Krejcir is wanted in the Czech Republic for various crimes, including conspiracy to murder, money forgery, tax evasion, extortion, and abduction. He has already been sentenced in absentia to six and a half years in jail for fraud.
President Vaclav Klaus and US President George W. Bush have discussed US plans to build a radar station in the Czech Republic as well as President Bush's upcoming visit to the country. The telephone conversation on Wednesday came as President Klaus prepared for a four-day state visit to Russia with relations strained by the Czech Republic's willingness to host part of an expanded US missile defence shield. Russian opposition to the US project to install a tracking radar in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in neighbouring Poland is set to dominate the meeting between Mr Klaus and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
The Police Presidium has said Vratislav Gregr is to become the new head of the Czech branch of the Interpol. He is replacing Pavol Mihal who was dismissed earlier this year after it was revealed that he previously worked for the Czechoslovak communist-era secret police, the StB. Vratislav Gregr will resume office in October after he finishes his duties at the Europol headquarters in The Hague. His predecessor Pavol Mihal bypassed a 1991 law barring former secret service agents access to top public posts. He used the name Pavel instead of Pavol when applying for a security clearance.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has apologised for some of his statements, mistakes and what he called "adolescent outpourings". Speaking in the lower house of parliament, Mr Topolanek said at 51 years of age he is young in spirit and makes mistakes like every human being. Former Social Democrat health minister, David Rath, said Prime Minister Topolanek approached his office as "one big party" instead of fulfilling his constitutional duties.
Austrian opponents of the Temelin nuclear power plant have announced they will halt traffic at 10 border crossings between Austria and the Czech Republic on Friday afternoon. They say they will protest at their country's failure to file an international lawsuit against the Czech Republic over an alleged breach of the Melk agreement concerning the safety of the South Bohemian nuclear power plant. With 10 out of 16 border crossings between the two countries blocked ahead of a prolonged weekend, severe jams and traffic disruptions are expected on Friday.
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