Former Czech president Václav Havel died at 10:15 AM on Sunday at the age of 75 after a protracted lung illness, an assistant to Mr Havel told the news agency ČTK. The former dissident, playwright and politician passed away in his sleep at his country house Hrádeček, in northern Bohemia, tended to by his wife Dagmar. Mr Havel’s health deteriorated in recent months; the former head of state suffered from lung and heart problems, and he had to limit his public appearances. The last time Václav Havel appeared in public was last week when he received the Dalai Lama during his Prague visit.
The funeral of the late Václav Havel will probably take place in Prague on Friday, December 23, the news agency ČTK reported. President Václav Klaus is set to meet with Mr Havel’s widow, Dagmar, on Monday to discuss the details. Top Czech officials will also gather at Prague Castle on Sunday to discuss further arrangements; condolence books will be open for people to sign at Prague castle on Monday. The Czech government will meet for an extraordinary session on Monday to declare a national day of mourning, Prime Minister Petr Nečas said.
Storm Joachim hit the Czech Republic on Friday night, disrupting traffic in several areas. Strong winds, reaching hurricane force winds in places, and snowing blocked roads and railway routes namely in the Krkonoše and Jeseníky Mountains. International trains traveling along the Prague-Břeclav line were delayed. Fire brigades had to clear roads in the worst-hit areas of eastern Bohemia. Up to 45 cm of fresh snow fell overnight in elevated areas. Meteorologists warn that similar conditions will continue in parts of the country into the weekend.
The Czech national hockey team on Saturday beat Finland 5:1 in their second appearance at Channel One Cup, the Moscow leg of the Europe Hockey Tour. The Czechs had little trouble overcoming a second-rate Finnish team, and controlled the whole game. Defender Jakub Krejčík scored in his first appearance for the national team. After losing to Sweden 2:1, the Czech now rank second with three points in the tournament’s table, and third in the series’ overall standings. On Sunday, the Czech national team faces Russia.
The novel The Prague Cemetery, by the Italian author Umberto Eco, has won the daily Lidové noviny’s prestigious Book of the Year poll. The book about conspiracy theories received the highest number of votes – 11 – from some 200 writers, translators, critics, and others, invited to take part in the poll, first time held in 1928. Second came Martin Hilský’s translation of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and third a publication marking the 20th anniversary of the Torst publishing house.
Europe will survive even if the euro collapses, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said in an interview for the German daily Rheinishe Post that came out on Saturday. Mr Schwarzenberg said he agreed with his Polish counterpart, Radek Sikorski, in that Germany should play a leading role in saving the euro. The Czech foreign minister said Europe was a political project; the euro was one of the reasons why the project succeeded economically but was not a fetish. When asked about his chances of becoming the next Czech president, Mr Schwarzenberg said they were smaller every day as the country was shifting to the left and his candidacy was unlikely to draw majority support in two year’s time, when the next Czech head of state will be elected.
The police are searching for three armed men who robbed a cash van in Prague on Friday. The police have not yet said how much money was stolen and how exactly. The incident took place at around 8:30 PM on Friday near a distribution centre of the Pilsner Urquell brewery on the outskirts of the capital; no one was hurt in the robbery. Dozens of police officers have been deployed in search of the three armed robbers.
Three apartment buildings in Jirkov, a town in the north-west of the Czech Republic, were evacuated in the early hours of Saturday due to a fire, a spokesman for the local fire brigade told the ČTK news agency. The fire broke out inside the technical shafts in one of the buildings at 3:20 AM and it took the fire brigade over six hours to extinguish it. Some 90 people had to leave their homes and were accommodated in hotels; around 30 of them won’t be able to return home until next week, a spokesman for the town said. The cause of the fire is being investigated.
The prime minister of Ukraine, Mykola Azarov, will on Monday arrive in
Prague for talks with officials in an attempt to restart political dialogue
between the two countries, the news agency ČTK reported. The visit comes
months after Czech-Ukrainian relations took a serious downturn; in May,
Ukraine expelled two Czech embassy workers in retaliation for Prague having
granted asylum to a former Ukrainian government minister.
During the brief official visit, Mr Azarov is set meet with Czech PM Petr Nečas to discuss mutual cooperation, particularly in the energy and industry sectors, as well as Ukraine’s approximation to the EU; the Ukrainian leader will also meet Czech President Václav Klaus.
A week before Christmas Eve, Czech girl and boy scouts on Saturday began distributing the Light of Bethlehem around the country. The Light of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, arrived in the Czech Republic from Vienna on Friday, was first taken to St Vitus Cathedral in Prague where it was blessed by Archbishop Dominik Duka. On Saturday, scouts are distributing it by train to all corners of the Czech Republic for people to light their own candles. The tradition of the Light of Bethlehem first appeared in then Czechoslovakia in December, 1989.
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