Russia and the United States on Tuesday failed to agree on Washington's plans to deploy parts of a US missile defense shield in the Czech Republic and Poland. Moscow opposes the missile defense shield, saying its deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic would threaten Russia's security. Further negotiations are to be held on the matter. Meanwhile talks with Prague on the conditions under which a US radar could be employed in the country have made sound progress, with an agreement expected to be reached by the end of the year. However the deal would still need to be approved by the Czech Parliament before it could be implemented. Public opinion surveys suggest that the majority of Czechs are firmly opposed to the country hosting a US radar base and the opposition parties are doing their best to prevent it happening.
Hundreds of people turned up to pay their last respects to one of the legends of Czech theatre, Radovan Lukavský, on Tuesday. The 88-year old actor who starred in hundreds of theatre performances, including Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Goethe’s Faust, died on March 10, a month after being taken to hospital with heart problems. He remained active up until the very end, recently starring in Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard. Mr. Lukavský was known for his love of poetry and literature.
Four Danish nationals who were recently detained in Prague on suspicion of
having robbed a bank in their home country have been taken into custody. The four allegedly made off with 27 million Danish crowns, the equivalent of more than 200,000 US dollars, from a bank in Aarhus. The police confiscated a considerable amount of cash, including Thai banknotes, as well as drugs and Viagra pills from their Prague hotel rooms. Denmark is expected to ask for their extradition.
A Czech soldier injured in Monday’s suicide bomb attack in southern Afghanistan remains in a serious condition at a US hospital in Kandahar. He is said to be in an induced coma, on a life support machine. Meanwhile, President Klaus on Tuesday revealed the name of the Czech soldier who died in the blast, when he sent his widow a letter of condolences. The first Czech soldier to be killed in action is officer Milan Šterby who served on foreign missions in Kosovo, Irak and now Afghanistan. The attack in which he lost his life killed ten other NATO soldiers all of whom were part of a special anti-terrorist unit within the NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces operating in the country.
Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas has promised to look closely into the ministry’s financing after it emerged that close to 400,000 crowns had been spent on what was alleged to be a working holiday for 35 ministry employees. The daily Mladá fronta Dnes, which broke the story on Tuesday, said that less than five hours of the week-long relaxation stay in a luxury spa hotel had been devoted to work. The “team building” holiday, as the ministry is now calling it, was covered jointly by EU funds and taxpayers money.
A pediatrician who was found to have been drinking at work has been let off with a fine. A regional court fined him 15,000 crowns, close to 1,000 US dollars. The verdict has outraged the local community in the town of Domašov nad Bystřicí which has turned to the Czech Doctors’ Chamber with a request that it revoke the doctor’s license. Several mothers from the community testified against him saying that on several occasions he had been tipsy on duty and they had had to take their children for treatment elsewhere. The doctor said he had been driven to drink by family problems.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said in connection with the US-Russian talks that any agreement which would entail the presence of Russian inspectors at the radar base would need to be approved by Prague. Mr. Topolánek said in Prague on Tuesday that occasional inspections by Russian experts would not present a problem but that Prague did not want a permanent Russian military presence at the base. The idea of having Russian soldiers on Czech soil has touched a raw nerve in the Czech Republic which was forced to accept the presence of Russian troops in the country for two decades following the crushing of the Prague Spring reform movement in 1968.
The head of Parliament’s mandate and immunity committee Miloslav Kala has warned the Prague City Transport Authority not to attempt to fine deputies and senators who use city transport without buying a ticket or monthly pass. Mr. Kala said that he had consulted lawyers on the matter and been assured that such action would be in violation of the law. Deputies and Prague City Transport have long been at loggerheads over the matter with the transport authority saying law-makers should pay their fare like everyone else. Although many deputies have said they do not want this perk no motion has been made to change the law which allows them to travel for free.
The Czech National Bank and the Finance Ministry are debating how to fight against the impacts of the fast-firming Czech crown," the central bank’s vice-governor Mojmír Hampl told the online business daily E15 on Tuesday. The Czech National Bank wants to freeze the government’s privatisation proceeds in order to reduce the inflow of money into the economy. The money that the state would obtain for its stakes in Czech Airlines, the Czech post office Česká pošta and the brewery Budějovický Budvar would be deposited on a special account. It would not be converted into crowns and would “wait” for the Czech Republic's euro-zone entry. The demand for the Czech currency, which leads to a strengthening of the crown, would therefore not increase further. The central bank also wants the government to fight the firming Czech currency by not issuing euro-bonds.
The Czech government has approved draft legislation which would enable Czechs who were forced to surrender their citizenship to become Czech citizens again. The draft law, which would also extend to the children of former Czechs, would no longer require applicants to surrender citizenship of their “new” home country. If approved by Parliament such legislation would cover many Czechs who went into exile following both the Nazi and communist regimes, and subsequently lost their Czech citizenships. Parliament deputies who are now debating the proposed changes will also consider whether those applying for Czech citizenship must be able to speak the Czech language and demonstrate a basic knowledge about the country’s history and culture.
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