Memorial ceremonies have got underway in the west Bohemian city of Pilsen to mark the end of the Second World War and the liberation of the city by US troops on May 6, 1945. As every year, a number of Second World War veterans from the US and Belgium have accepted the invitation to attend the celebrations as guests of honour and the coming days are full of events, including a military parade, a veterans-car ride and an air show organized by the Czech Airforce.
Greenpeace activists who are protesting against the planned US radar base in the Brdy military area are building what they call a “symbolic bridge of meetings” from wood gathered in the surrounding area. According to the activists it should be a symbol of people’s unity. Around 20 Greenpeace activists on Monday set up a camp in a clearing called Site 718, the spot chosen by officials from the U.S. Missile Defence Agency for the radar facility. The site is part of the restricted Brdy military area and the Greenpeace activists were not issued a permit to enter the zone.
Four Czech soldiers who were injured in a bomb attack in Afghanistan this week are expected to return to the Czech Republic in the next few days. A military plane left for Afghanistan on Friday to fly them back home. One Czech soldier was killed in the attack. The troops, who were travelling in a Humvee military vehicle when the attack occurred, were serving with a Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team in the province of Logar, south-east of Kabul. In March a military policeman became the first Czech combat casualty of the modern era when he was killed in a suicide attack in Helmand province. Last year another Czech soldier died in Afghanistan in an accident caused by flooding.
Around one hundred people gathered at the National cemetery in Terezín,
north of Prague, to commemorate the victims of the last execution carried
out in the Gestapo-run in Terezín’s Little Fortress in 1945. The 51
members of various resistance groups were executed 63 years ago in the
Gestapo prison in what was the largest execution in the history of
Terezín. More than 150,000 people passed through the Terezín ghetto
between 1941 and 1945 and some 35,000 people died there. The rest were sent
on to Nazi camps in the east, where most of them perished. After the war,
Terezín’s Little Fortress was turned into a wartime memorial.
Over 800 bronze name plates bearing the names of wartime victims were recently stolen from the gravestones at the national cemetery in Terezín and were later found to have been sold as scrap metal. The damage that the Holocaust memorial suffered is thought to have run into millions of crowns, all of the bronze plates were found broken into pieces. The memorial hopes to replace the name plates by May 18, the day commemorating the victims of Nazi persecution.
A US Senate committee has agreed to a request from President George W. Bush to fund US missile defense installations in the Czech Republic and neighbouring Poland. The Armed Service Committee of the Senate unanimously agreed to “fully authorize” both a proposed tracking radar in the Czech Republic and an interceptor site in Poland as part of a 2009 fiscal bill. The proposal must still be approved by the full Senate and the House of Representatives. The US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was scheduled to arrive in Prague on May 5 to sign an agreement paving the way for the US radar on Czech soil, but her visit was postponed until June.
Several free techno music festivals are currently being held over the country. Some 2,000 people attended a rave in south Bohemian village of Uzenice which got underway on Thursday and more visitors are expected to arrive at the weekend. The techno festival is being held with an approval from the local town hall. Other parties are being held in Opava and Sokolov. Techno festivals have been closely observed since 2005, when the police dispersed thousands of techno fans with tear gas and water canons at an illegal CzechTek festival in South Bohemia.
The opposition Social Democrats have presented two proposals for the abolition of medical fees, which were introduced as part of the government’s health system reform. The first proposal suggests complete abolition of health care fees while the other, compromise proposal, would exempt only certain groups from paying the fees, including children under the age of 18, pensioners without income and disabled people. The two smaller parties in the ruling coalition, the Christian Democrats and the Greens, have also expressed disagreement with some of the newly introduced fees. The Czech Parliament’s lower house should discuss the proposals in June.
The Czech government held back information on the incident in Afghanistan before the vote on sending special troops to the country, opposition Social Democrat MP Lubomír Zaorálek said on Friday. He added that the cabinet acted in variance with the constitution by concealing information from deputies. Just a few hours before news of Wednesday’s attack, the lower house of the Czech parliament voted to send more troops to Afghanistan. Around 100 members of a special forces unit are to be sent to the war-torn state. There are currently around 400 Czech soldiers operating in Afghanistan.
The Czech football star Pavel Nedvěd is to announce next week whether he is willing to return to the national team for the European Championship in Switzerland and Austria. The midfielder’s Italian agent told a Czech newspaper that the player should be given time and space to make his decision calmly. Nedvěd, who turns 36 in August, retired from international football after the 2006 World Cup. He scored 18 goals in 91 games for the Czech Republic.
A number of May Day events were held in the Czech Republic on Thursday, which was a state holiday. Left-wing political parties the Communists and the Social Democrats held rallies to mark the workers’ holiday. Far-right groups and anarchists also held gatherings. In Brno police confiscated hammer and sickle flags from the Young Communists, who are outlawed. No disturbances were reported at any of the gatherings.