Forty years after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, 41 percent of Czechs say Russia could present a security threat to their country. In an opinion poll conducted in connection with the anniversary two thirds of Czechs said they did not think Russia was a democratic country and forty percent of respondents said it was to blame for the conflict over South Ossetia.
The Czech government on Wednesday strongly condemned Russia’s military
offensive in Georgia. Following a cabinet meeting devoted to the situation
in the Caucuses, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said that Georgia’s
independence and integrity must be respected and that Russia had violated
international law when it sent its troops over the border. At the request
of Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg the government agreed to set
aside 150 million crowns in aid to Georgia to help restore the country’s
damaged infrastructure in the wake of Russia’s military offensive. It
also wants to organize a donors’ conference in order to provide further
assistance. The government and NGOs have already sent medicines and
humanitarian aid to the region.
The armed conflict over South Ossetia has divided Czech politicians. While the Foreign Ministry issued a statement in support of Georgia and condemned Moscow’s use of force, President Klaus said that Georgia was primarily to blame for provoking the armed conflict.
The town of Chrudim, in Eastern Bohemia, has placed a tank on its main square as a reminder of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia 40 years ago. The invasion, intended to crush the reform movement known as the Prague Spring, took place in the early hours of August 21st of 1968. Over 100 people were killed and more than 500 injured in the clash with foreign troops. Numerous commemorative ceremonies, exhibitions and debates are being held across the country to mark the anniversary.
Forty years after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic still has reason to fear Russia, Luboš Dobrovský, former ambassador to Moscow told Hospodařské Noviny. Mr. Dobrovský who served as the country’s ambassador to Russia in the late 1990s, said that it was important for the democratic community to jointly condemn Moscow’s use of force, otherwise the country would be tempted to provoke its neighbours again and again in view of depriving them of their independence. Russia will undoubtedly continue trying to restore its political, military and economic influence in its close neighbourhood, Mr. Dobrovský told the paper.
Experts predict that repairing the environmental damage caused by Soviet troops on Czechoslovak territory between 1968 and 1991 may take up until 2012. The occupying forces used 73 military areas and 60 of them were left in a very bad state. Since 1991 –when the last Soviet troops were withdrawn from Czech territory – the authorities poured 1.3 billion crowns into clean-up operations. Another 240 million will be required.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has welcomed a US-Polish agreement to station elements of a US missile defence shield on Polish soil. The site in Poland hosting ten interceptor rockets and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic will form the European part of a global system Washington says it is assembling to shoot down ballistic missiles it fears could be launched by "rogue" states or militant groups such as al-Qaeda. The Czech government agreed earlier this year to host the US tracking radar on Czech soil. However public opinion is against the radar and the agreement still needs to be approved by Parliament.
The Czech government will appeal the arbitration ruling in its dispute with Diag Human, a company trading in blood plasma, according to which the Czech Republic is to pay some nine billion crowns in compensation for having robbed the firm of lucrative business deals. In 1992, then Health Minister Martin Bojar dissuaded other European companies from doing business with Diag Human and the firm pressed charges. A court ruled that the Czech Republic should pay damages and apologise publicly. The state has subsequently appealed the ruling unsuccessfully on several occasions. Under Czech law, after an arbitration ruling is issued, the parties involved can submit a proposal for it to be reviewed by other arbitrators.
The “Blue Mauritius” an ultra-rare two-penny stamp from the mid 19th century is to be displayed in Prague in September, according to the Czech Post Office. The exhibition will form part of “Praga 2008” which will showcase stamps from around the former British Empire. The entire collection is currently insured at around one billion Czech crowns.
For the last six months, the Czech crown has topped lists of the world’s fastest strengthening currencies. Now, in a stark reversal, the Czech crown has flipped to being the second fastest weakening currency in the world – second only to the currency of Zimbabwe, according to new data from the Czech National Bank. In late July, the Czech crown reached a peak against the Euro trading at less than 23 crowns to 1 Euro, amidst increasing concerns that the strong currency was beginning to damage the country’s economy. Since that time, the currency has fallen to around 24.30. However, analysts still note that the Czech currency is relatively strong, and the recent sharp fall has only lessened this slightly – further strong falls are not forecast for the remainder of the year.
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