The premiere of the documentary Občan Havel (Citizen Havel) is taking place at Prague’s Slovanský Dům on Wednesday evening. The film was 15 years in the making and offers a behind-the-scenes look at Václav Havel’s tenure as Czech president. When original director Pavel Koutecký died during the making of another film in 2006, Občan Havel was completed by Miroslav Janek. The former playwright and dissident, who is 71, will not be attending the premiere; Mr Havel has been in hospital for nearly two weeks after suffering from minor heart problems.
Athens silver medallist in yachting Lenka Šmídová has qualified at the very last opportunity for this summer’s Olympic Games. Šmídová and her new partner Lenka Mrzílková made the cut for Beijing after the two Czechs finished 22nd in the World Championships for the Olympic 470 class in Australia’s Melbourne.
The Czech World War II hero General Jan Paroulek has died at the age of 85. General Paroulek fought in the Battle of Britain and the Battle of Normandy and received a number of honours including the Czechoslovak War Cross and the French Legion of Honour. However, after the communist takeover of 1948 he was expelled from the army; two years later he received a 12-year prison term in a political trial. General Paroulek later played an active role in the 1989 Velvet Revolution in his home town of Přerov. He will be buried on Monday with military honours.
A Prague police officer has been charged with the stabbing to death of an American man in the city on Tuesday night. Police arrested the officer, who was drunk, shortly after the incident, which occurred near the Sazka Arena in Prague 9. The internet news site Deník.cz reported that the American had stopped his car after the policeman made vulgar gestures. Following an argument the two began to fight, during which the officer stabbed the man three times. The American, who was based in Germany, died at the scene.
The American company which bought the Čedok travel agency is also interested in buying Czech Airlines, Aktuálně.cz reported. A spokesperson for Odien Group told the news website the firm wanted to take part in the privatisation of the Czech national carrier. No date has been set for the sell-off, though the Czech Finance Ministry has said it could take place this year.
Nearly 1,000 owners of apartments beside the magistrála road which runs through Prague have won a court case they brought against the city authorities over excessive noise levels. The Prague Municipal Court has given the city one year to reduce the noise level in the vicinity of the Prague 4 flats to 45 decibels during the day and 35 decibels after 10 pm. The decision overturns a previous ruling by a district court. Court experts recorded noise levels of nearly 70 decibels during the day and 60 decibels at night on the magistrála.
The latest round of talks between Czech and US negotiators on American plans to build a radar base in central Bohemia ended on Wednesday. Among the issues on the agenda during the three-day meeting at the Czech Defence Ministry were legal jurisdiction over US soldiers based in the Czech Republic, and whether US vehicles would have Czech or American number plates. The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, is due to discuss the planned base with President George Bush on a visit to Washington in four weeks’ time. Mr Topolánek has previously indicated that the Czech Parliament would vote on the matter after a NATO summit in Romania in April. The radar base would be part of a US global anti-missile defence system and would be linked to a planned rocket base in Poland.
An investigation into alleged welfare abuse by the Christian Democrat leader Jiří Čunek has been shelved, the Havířov state attorney said on Wednesday. Mr Čunek had been accused of accepting social welfare payments while at the same time allegedly having millions of crowns in various bank accounts. In November he stood down as deputy prime minister and minister for regional development over another case, in which he was accused of accepting bribes while mayor of a town in Moravia. Since the shelving of that investigation he has been demanding to be reinstated to the cabinet.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek is to meet with US President George Bush in the White House on February 27th to discuss Czech-American cooperation in missile defense. According to a White House statement the talks will also focus on NATO missions in Afghanistan and Iraq in which the Czech Republic is actively involved. The US wants to deploy part of its missile defense system in Central Europe with a tracking radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in neighbouring Poland. Neither country has as yet reached a final decision on the matter. Although the Czech government supports the plan, the opposition and the public are vehemently opposed to it.
The two presidential candidates, incumbent Václav Klaus and challenger Jan Švejnar, met in a historic televised debate on Tuesday. The hour-long question-and-answer session took place before senators of the opposition Social Democrats. The questions covered political, economic and environmental issues as well as matters of national security and the country’s membership in the European Union. Mr. Klaus said he offered years of experience in the field, his rival Jan Švejnar the ability to consolidate the political scene. It was the one and only time the two candidates came face to face in the month-long election campaign.
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