Over three hundred people protested outside the Russian Embassy in Prague on Tuesday in reaction to Moscow’s decision to launch military operations in Georgia. The protesters, mostly Georgians living in Prague, said they were also demonstrating about the Russian press’s portrayal of the clashes. On Tuesday morning, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered an end to Russian military operations in the region. He said that security had been restored for civilians living in the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Architect Jan Kaplický’s design for a new Czech National Library building may never be built on Prague’s Letná plain, but on Tuesday, the architect unveiled plans for a new concert hall in České Budějovice. The Antonín Dvořák Concert Hall is set to be one of the finest in the country, with acoustics similar to those of the Berliner Philharmonie, project managers said. Funds for the project are yet to be fully raised, but it is thought that construction could get underway by 2010. London-based Czech architect Jan Kaplický is currently most famous in the Czech Republic for his designs for a new National Library building, which have divided politicians, and which have been shelved amid controversy for the indefinite future.
Russian oil deliveries to the Czech Republic through the Druzhba pipeline have again fallen below their normal level. The pipeline’s Czech operator insists, however, that similar shortfalls have occured in the past. Russian oil deliveries fell considerably in July after the Czech Republic signed a bilateral agreement with the United States, giving the green light to a US radar base on Czech soil. Moscow was firmly opposed to the agreement, but insisted that the coinciding shortfall in oil deliveries was unrelated to the treaty’s signing. After a period of returning to normal, oil deliveries through the Druzhba pipeline have again fallen to below average. A spokesperson for MERO, the Czech firm operating the pipeline, said that the current shortfall ‘could not be labeled as extraordinary’.
President Klaus has vetoed a law which would force companies to register all the chemicals they use. The law was drafted after the European Union issued a directive calling on member states to declare which chemicals were in use on their territory. At the time, President Klaus criticized the directive, calling it the most terrible thing to have emerged from the EU. The bill will now be returned to the chamber of deputies, where MPs are able to overturn the president’s no-vote. Environmental organizations have said that the bill only places moderate demands on the country’s chemical industry, while Czech chemical plants respond that the cost of implementing the bill would far outweigh the benefits.
Also on Tuesday, the national bank said that it expects less than a fifth of the Czech Republic’s 50 heller pieces to be returned by August 31, when the coin is withdrawn from circulation. There are currently 427 million of the coins in use in the Czech Republic. The coin is being withdrawn because of a fall in its value – it is now worth around 3 US cents. The 20 crown banknote is also being withdrawn at the end of August this year.
In related news, the Czech Foreign Ministry has said that it will send a plane full of medical aid to Georgia on Wednesday. Ministry spokesperson Zuzana Opletalová said that the plane would contain first aid kits and other medical materials to the value of two million crowns (125,000 USD). In addition, the Foreign Ministry has pledged a further five million crowns in humanitarian aid to the region. The plane, which will touch down in neighbouring Armenia on Wednesday, will escort a further 25 Czechs back from the Caucuses. Some 50 Czechs returned home from Georgia on Monday, after fighting broke out.
Veteran Czech pentathlete Libor Capalini, a bronze medalist in the modern pentathlon at the 2004 Athens Games, has pulled out of the Beijing Olympics because of an Achilles tendon injury, his coach Jakub Kučera said on Tuesday. The thirty-five year old will be replaced in the event by Michal Michalík, who finished sixth in Athens. The pentathlon consists of shooting, fencing, swimming, showjumping and running. This year’s Olympic title is expected to be a battle between Russia’s Ilya Frolov, Czech David Svoboda and Igor Lapo of Belarus.
Thirty-three people have applied for compensation from Czech Railways following a fatal train crash in Ostrava last Friday. The crash was one of the worst in recent Czech history, leaving seven dead and ten times as many injured. On Monday, Czech Railways said it would start to accept compensation claims, in the first twenty four hours, it received over thirty. The train operator has said it will pay victims’ relatives up to 240,000 crowns (14,900 USD) each in damages. The crash was caused by a flyover collapsing; the building firm in charge of repairing the bridge has said it is also considering paying out compensation. Rail services in the area remain disrupted.
The Czech Republic’s current account stood 27 billion crowns (1.67 billion USD) in deficit at the end of June, the Czech National Bank announced on Tuesday. At the end of May, the current account deficit stood at 11.7 billion crowns. Both trade and services posted a surplus in June, but the deficit in income was a massive 53.4 billion crowns.
A new opinion poll puts the opposition Social Democrats eight points ahead of the Civic Democrats, the largest party in the governing coalition. The survey, conducted by the Median agency in July, suggests that the Social Democrats have the support of 37.7 percent of the electorate, with the Civic Democrats on 29.4 percent. The preferences of the Social Democrats have increased by two percent since June. The Communists would be elected by 14.6 percent of votes. The five-percent threshold to enter the lower house would also be crossed by the Greens and the Christian Democrats, with 7.1 and six percent respectively.
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