Regional Development Minister Jiri Cunek says he can explain the origin
of the suspect half a million crowns which he placed in his account in
2002. In a televised debate on Sunday, Mr. Cunek said he had documents
to prove that the money was family savings retrieved from Universal
Bank following its bankruptcy. The minister said it was money earned
before he entered politics and that he had managed to retrieve it
thanks to the fact that the savings account was ensured against
The police suspect Mr. Cunek of having taken a bribe when he was in regional politics and the police have asked for him to be stripped of his immunity. His former secretary is their chief witness, having told the police that her former boss not only accepted the bribe but openly boasted about it. Jiri Cunek, who is also a senator and head of the Christian Democratic Party, has dismissed the accusations saying he would clear his name in court.
Professional soldiers, military police and mountain rescuers from the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Belgium have gathered in the Jeseniky Mountains for the 13th annual Winter Survival games organized by the Czech Defence Ministry. Winter Survival is an endurance competition simulating military patrol and rescue operations in unknown and difficult terrain. The four-day competition includes disciplines such as mountaineering, downhill and cross-country skiing, a night spent out in the open and a simulated rescue operation.
A protest demonstration against the possible deployment of a US radar base in the Czech Republic will take place in Prague on Monday despite the fact that it has been banned by the Prague city hall. Opponents of the base will meet on Prague's Wenceslas Square before marching to the US Embassy and the Office of Government. Representatives of several dozen civic groups and associations as well as individuals are expected to take part. The city hall banned the protest saying that a march though the city-centre would disrupt traffic.
The Czech authorities have decided to end the controversial practice of North Koreans working in factories across the country as breadwinners for their authoritarian regime. Tomas Haisman, an interior ministry official responsible for Czech asylum and migration policy, told the AFP news agency that the ministry would not be offering new work permits to North Korean citizens and did not intend to prolong existing ones. Around 400 North Koreans are currently working in the country, mostly as seamstresses. They are kept on a tight leash by government agents and allowed to keep only part of their wages.
Three people have frozen to death since the sudden onset of cold weather in the Czech Republic last week. The first was a fifty year old homeless man who died several hours after seeking help in a hospital and being evicted because doctors failed to find anything wrong with him. Police are now investigating the case. Another two cases were reported over the weekend, both men in their fifties who had consumed too much alcohol and had fallen asleep out in the open.
The Czech public is divided over whether Jiri Cunek should remain in politics. According to a poll conducted by the Mlada Fronta Dnes daily 52 percent of respondents think that Mr. Cunek should resign from all his posts and leave politics. Forty-eight percent of respondents said he should be treated as innocent until proven otherwise.
Former culture minister Viteslav Jandak has suggested merging the country's public radio and public television networks. Mr. Jandak, who is now an opposition deputy for the Social Democratic Party, said a merger of Czech Radio and Czech Television would enable significant cost cutting measures without reducing quality. The newly appointed culture minister Vaclav Jehlicka said he was not against the idea in principle, but noted that both Czech Radio and Czech Television were known to oppose it.
Russia said on Friday a U.S. plan to deploy an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic was a "mistake" which would have negative consequences for international security. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov rejected Washington's reassurances that the anti-missile system was meant to offset a potential rocket attack from Iran or North Korea, saying Iranian missiles could not reach Europe. President Klaus said last week he would discuss the matter with President Putin during a planned visit to Moscow in April.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she remained optimistic that discussions could start on reviving the European constitution despite hearing deep criticisms of the treaty during a meeting with Czech officials on Friday. President Klaus, an outspoken opponent of closer EU integration, said that the document was not salvageable and should be scrapped. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek argued that the EU Constitution should be "more readable, more understandable and more transparent" for EU citizens. The Czech Republic is one of seven EU countries which have delayed indefinitely or suspended ratification of the EU treaty.
Czech ski-jumper Jan Mazoch, who suffered a life-threatening injury at a World Cup event in Poland last weekend, continues to make progress. A spokeswoman for the Krakow University Hospital where he is receiving treatment said doctors saw "a clear improvement" in his state of health. Mazoch is said to be reacting to speech and touch and is in verbal contact with his doctors. Doctors brought Mazoch out of an artificial coma on Thursday on the advice of specialists after the swelling in his brain had reduced. They say that if his health continues to improve at the same pace he could be transferred to the Czech Republic next week.