Civic Democrat senator and former deputy prime minister Alexandr Vondra has said the Czech political left underestimates Russia’s efforts to exercise its influence in Central Europe, including the Czech Republic. Speaking on the 41st anniversary of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia on Friday, Mr Vondra said the occasion raised questions whether Social Democrat chairman Jiří Paroubek and his deputy Lubomír Zaorálek would like to return the Czech Republic to the Russian sphere of influence. Mr Vondra and Civic Democrat deputy Marek Benda again criticised Mr Paroubek's trip to Moscow in June where he held talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin without consulting the Czech embassy.
Defence Minister Martin Barták has said that municipalities in the vicinity of the NATO radar in Sokolnice, south Moravia, will not be compensated as the radar does not pose a health risk to the public. Speaking ahead of his meeting with local mayors on Friday, Mr Barták said the radar would not be put into operation if testing revealed any irregularities. The radar is meant to monitor the airspace over Moravia and along with another installation in east Bohemia it will be part of NATO's basic radar network. Chief-of-staff Vlastimil Picek said earlier this week that the radar would markedly improve the airspace protection and the security of the country.
Civic Democrat chairman and former prime minister Mirek Topolánek has been slightly injured when a group of unknown assailants threw rocks at him, hitting him in the head. The incident occurred on Friday in the south Moravian town of Hustopeče where Mr Topolánek, who is Civic Democrat election leader in the region, appeared at a rally ahead of October’s general elections. According to the party’s spokesman, Mr Topolánek received medical attention on the spot and continues in his campaign. Police are investigating the incident.
Czech prime minister Jan Fischer and other state officials have attended a ceremony outside the Czech Radio building to mark the 41st anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968. Speaking at the event, Mr Fischer emphasised the pivotal role of Czechoslovak Radio in the days following the Warsaw Pact invasion which crushed the Prague Spring reform movement. Over 100 people were killed and more than 500 injured in clashes with the occupational forces by the end of 1968. The Czechoslovak Radio building in Prague was the scene of some of the heaviest clashes between Soviet troops and Czech protesters in August 1968.
The Czech Philharmonic under the baton of French conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier will launch Dvořák’s Prague international classical music festival on Friday evening in Prague’s Rudolfinum concert hall. In its second year, the festival will feature almost twenty concerts in the next two weeks, presenting young Czech and foreign up-and-coming soloists, including soprano Olga Trifonova, violinists Janine Jansen and Arabella Steinbacher and conductor Tomáš Netopil.
Czechs spent more than 40 billion crowns (2.2 billion USD) in out-of-pocket medical payments last year on supplies and services not covered by medical insurance, according to data from the Czech Institute of Health Information and Statistics. The amount includes 5 billion crowns collected in healthcare fees and makes up for just over one sixth of overall healthcare costs in the country which stood at 259 billion crowns last year. Between 2004 and 2008, the volume of patient co-payment rose by two percent, from 24.4 billion to 40.1 billion crowns.
The Czech government has announced it will purchase a million doses of swine flue vaccine, enough to immunise half a million people. Speaking after an extraordinary cabinet session on Friday, Prime Minister Jan Fischer said the vaccines would be supplied by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which won the contract over rival bidder, Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis. Doctors, nurses and other public health workers will be the first to be immunised, Mr Fischer said. The first delivery is expected in Prague at the end of September. In the 10-million Czech Republic, 217 cases of swine flu infection have been confirmed so far. No one has died of the illness.
The number of eligible voters in the 10-million-strong Czech Republic has been increasing in recent years, according to the official election website of the Czech Statistical Office. Currently, some 8.4 million Czech citizens are eligible to cast their ballots, which is by 400,000 more than in the first Czech parliamentary elections in 1996.
The head of the Czech Chamber of Commerce, Petr Kužel, says Czech businesses welcome the possibility of a four-day working week, as proposed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in a bid to reduce unemployment. According to the ministry’s plan, the government would reimburse companies for the salaries of people out of work due to lack of business. Mr Kužel said the measure should be introduced as soon as possible. According to the ministry, the plan is not expected to be launched before mid 2010 as several laws need to be amended.
Former state prosecutor Ludmila Brožová-Polednová, the oldest prisoner in the Czech Republic, will serve out the remainder of her eight-year sentence, the District Court of Hradec Králové has announced. The ruling cannot be further appealed. 87-year-old Mrs. Brožová-Polednová, who is currently suffering from a broken rib among other ailments, has appealed for the suspension of her sentence on health grounds, saying she cannot be effectively treated in prison. In 2007, Mrs. Brožová-Polednová was convicted for her participation in the 1950 show-trial by which democratic politician Milada Horáková was sentenced to death for conspiracy and treason.
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