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22-09-2016 18:18 | Ian Willoughby

Czech justice minister says he is unlikely to extradite Voina member to Russia

The Czech minister of justice, Robert Pelikán, has said that it is unlikely that he would extradite dissident artist Oleg Vorotnikov to his home country of Russia. Mr. Pelikán said, however, that he had not read the file on Mr. Vorotnikov. The Russian authorities issued an international arrest warrant on hooliganism charges against the artist, who is a member of the Voina group. Mr. Vorotnikov was detained in Prague on Sunday but has not been remanded in custody. Voina is known for stunts like overturning police cars and painting a phallus on a bridge facing the headquarters of the FSB secret police.

Police raid regional offices in Hradec Králové

The police’s organised crime squad raided the offices of the Hradec Králové Region on Thursday morning. The regional governor, Lubomír Franc, told reporters that investigation concerned a deal to renovate a hospital in the town of Náchod. Tenders for the reconstruction project were due to be opened on Friday but that process has been put back by a number of weeks. Mr. Franc said the police had also searched his home. A raid also took place at the head office of the company Zdravotnický holding in Hradec Králové.

One exit from Prague’s Blanka tunnel complex to be closed

One exit from Prague’s Blanka tunnel complex by the Prašný most crossroads will be closed temporarily within a few weeks in an effort to combat severe congestion around Vítězné náměstí, a square in Prague 6 that serves as a traffic hub. The Prague 6 authorities say there have been increased traffic jams around the square since last year’s opening of Blanka; these have been exacerbated by roadworks nearby. Leaders at the citywide level first opposed closing the exit but have now accepted the idea.

Prague plaza be to renamed after Havel – but form unclear

A plaza by the National Theatre in Prague is to be renamed after the late president Václav Havel, but it is not clear what form the name will take, Lidovky.cz reported on Thursday. While City Hall’s topographical commission is in favour of calling the space Havel Square (Havlovo náměstí), councilor Jan Wolf is lobbying for Václav Havel Square (náměstí Václava Havla), the news website said. Mayor Adrian Krnáčová told Lidovky.cz that it was a sufficiently dignified place to bear Mr. Havel’s name, given its proximity to the National Theatre and Národní St., where the Velvet Revolution began in 1989.

News site: Police launch new investigation into murders linked to late crime boss Mrázek

Prague police have launched a fresh investigation into cases of violent and unexplained deaths linked to František Mrázek, a reputed crime boss whose own killing in 2006 has never been solved, Novinky.cz reported on Thursday. The news site said the investigation concerned 14 murders, including that of Mrázek himself. Novinky said that no official investigation had yet been launched, which meant that a police team specialising in reopening old cases was not at present acting under the supervision of the state attorney’s office.

Air pollution levels compared as Prague’s Národní is closed to traffic

Prague’s Národní St. was closed to cars on Thursday. Experts used the closure of one of the city’s main thoroughfares to measure the difference in air pollution compared to on normal days. The event was part of the European Week of Mobility and coincides with International Car Free Day. The Prague councilor responsible for traffic, Petr Dolínek, said the city often had air pollution as high as Ostrava; however, while the cause there is industry, in the capital it is traffic congestion, he said.

Percentage of women standing in regional elections highest ever

The percentage of women standing in elections to the Czech Republic’s regional assemblies next month is the highest ever, according to Fórum 50%, a group that advocates for increased gender equality in politics. Over 30 percent of the candidates in regional elections are women, with the highest percentage (33.7 percent) in the Liberec Region. The percentage of female candidates in elections to the Senate, which are also taking place in October, is the third highest since the first such biannual votes were held in 1996.

Czech president criticizes United Nations for lack of activity in fight against terrorism

The Czech president has criticized the United Nations for what he perceives as a lack of activity in the fight against terrorism. In his speech given in New York before the UN General Assembly, Mr Zeman called for coordinated action on the part of all the permanent members of the UN Security Council, comparing terrorism to "cancer". According to the head of the Czech state, it would be necessary to launch a military operation against the command structures of terrorist organizations, instead of occupying territories, referring to operations in Iraq, Syria and Libya. "We must attack the brain, not the body ," he said.

Head of the president's foreign affairs office Kmoníček to become next Czech ambassador to the United States

The next Czech ambassador to Washington will be Hyněk Kmoníček, until now the head of the president’s foreign affairs office. The news was confirmed by Czech President Miloš Zeman on Wednesday during a visit to the Bohemian National Hall in New York City; the head of state confirmed that he had already signed the letter of credence. The Czech Foreign Ministry has not commented as Mr Kmoníček has not yet been granted an agrément from the receiving country. Hyněk Kmoníček is expected to replace the current ambassador, Petr Gandalovič, next March.

Government approves amendment on national identity cards

The Czech government has approved an amendment put forward by the Interior Ministry regarding the issuing of new national identity cards (required by all citizens above the age of 15). According to the proposal, all cards in the future will be equipped with an electronic chip at no extra cost. Currently, cards with the electronic chip cost holders 500 crowns. The government expects the changes could take effect by 2018. Last year some 1.7 million cards without the chip were issued.

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