The Czech police organised crime unit has revealed in its annual report a rise in neo-Nazi group activities in the Czech Republic, with members of the extreme right organising a an increasing number of demonstrations and concerts or rallies. Last year, the police unit noted in its report, far-right groups held 26 different events. Specialists say that extremists have tried to raise their profile to try and broaden their influence and strengthen their support base. Experts have also noted that the far-right in the Czech Republic has also been trying to prepare the ground for eventual entry onto the political scene.
In related news, the Hungarian Culture Minister Istvan Hiller has apologised on behalf of his government for Hungary's participation in the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Mr Hiller said on Thursday that the suppression of the Prague Spring communist-led reform movement 40 years ago was shameful and that Hungary's share of the blame had not been lessened by the fact that it had acted under pressure from the Soviet Union. He called Hungary’s participation “an aggression, an attack on free thinking and on free decision-making”.
Roman Šebrle, the gold medal winner in the decathlon at the 2004 Athens Olympics, failed to finish in the medals on Friday in Beijing. The athlete earned 8,241 points – managed 6th place. Friday's decathlon was won by Brian Clay of the US with 8791 points. Clay was the silver medal winner in Athens four years ago.
Archive materials which are now in the hands of the Czech Foreign Ministry indicate that the Czechoslovak leadership received two last-minute warnings of the planned invasion. One came from the Czechoslovak embassy in Hungary on the basis of an anonymous phone call made at 5 pm on August 20th. At 6pm it arrived at the Czechoslovak Foreign Ministry in Prague and was deciphered but it did not reach the president in view of the fact that it was based on an anonymous phone call. A second last-minute warning arrived from Poland, at eight thirty. Historians say that in any case the warnings came too late to make any difference. Some believe that Moscow itself issued many thinly veiled warnings about the use of force which the Czechoslovak leadership disregarded or did not take seriously enough.
In a special ceremony, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek awarded medals of bravery to ten foreign dissidents who publicly protested against the invasion in their homeland. The protests took place in Russia, Poland, Bulgaria and other former Soviet satellites and the people who condemned the invasion paid a high price for their bravery. They were locked up in psychiatric clinics, persecuted by the secret service and were unable to find work for many years after. The Czech prime minister said that his country was deeply grateful for what they had done and noted that their bravery had been inspiring, for they had acted as free people although they lived in a totalitarian state.
Barbora Špotáková of the Czech Republic won the women's javelin gold medal at the Beijing Olympics on Thursday with a dramatic last throw of 71.42 metres. The world champion overtook Russian Maria Abakumova whose 70.78 metre throw proved only to be good enough for a silver medal. Germany's Christina Obergfoll took the bronze medal with her throw of 66.13 metres.
President Klaus said in an interview for the Russian daily Kommersant that
the Czech government’s plans to host a US radar base on Czech soil were
not directed against Russia. Mr. Klaus said that he did not think that in
the present day Russia posed a security threat to the Czech Republic and
emphasized that Prague and Moscow were not enemies. The Czech president
said that it was wrong to portray Moscow as a potential aggressor.
The statement came just a day after an opinion poll indicated that 41 percent of Czechs still believe the Czech Republic has reason to fear Russia. In a 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 Moscow was to blame for the military conflict with Georgia.
Czech President Václav Klaus and Slovak President Ivan Gasparovič met in the Slovak capital Bratislava on Thursday to mark the 1968 anniversary. They told reporters that the Soviet-led invasion fully revealed the tragedy and irrationality of the communist era. Here in Prague, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek met with his Slovak counterpart Robert Fico. Mr. Topolánek said the 1968 invasion was a tragic event but also a valuable lesson which should motivate the country’s political leaders to make sure history did not repeat itself. The Czechoslovak federation broke up shortly after the fall of communism and the two counties are now going their separate ways, although they have retained close ties.
A commemorative ceremony was held outside the Czech Radio building on Thursday where a fierce battle for control of the radio took place forty years ago. Fifteen civilians lost their lives in the clash with Soviet troops, who eventually seized the building. Broadcasting continued from a number of secret locations for a few days longer, informing Czechs about what was happening and that the invasion had been condemned by the international community.
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Screenshot: a hybrid English-friendly Prague art-house cinema where screenings are events