Clean-up work continues west of Kolín where a Czech-made L-159 fighter jet crashed in a field on its way back to base from a training session on Thursday evening. A defense ministry spokesperson confirmed on Saturday that the plane’s black box had been located and most of the debris from the jet had been assembled and transported to the military technical institute for inspection. Soldiers remain at the site of the accident and are still combing it for small parts with the help of metal detectors. The investigation which is to ascertain the cause of the accident may take weeks.
Nine people have been arrested in a police raid on the Heřmanice prison house in Ostrava. Officers have been searching the premises and questioning employees since Friday night. The director of the prison house said he was fully cooperating with the authorities but refused to provide any details. According to the daily Právo the raid is linked to the suspect business activities of several prison guards who may have assisted in scam practices at a nearby scrap metal yard where prisoners from the jailhouse are employed. In view of the ongoing investigation the police have not released any details on the case.
A mass was held in Prague on Saturday in memory of the English-born Renaissance poetess Elizabeth Jane Weston, who spent nearly all her life in Prague and died 400 years ago. The mass took place at the Church of St. Thomas where she is buried. Known as Virgo Angla (the English Maiden) at the court of Rudolph II at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries she was considered one of Europe’s great poets. Elizabeth Jane Weston wrote in Latin and a collection of her poems was published in Czech in 2003.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has promised to assist the Czech Republic in ascertaining the main sources of pollution in the heavily contaminated Ostrava region and offer advice on how to tackle the problem effectively. American scientists are expected to visit the region for a fact-finding study at the end of this and the beginning of next year. A comprehensive study of this kind was last undertaken in 1995 but the situation has not improved since and air-pollution in the region remains a serious problem that negatively affects people’s health. Doctors report a high incidence of allergies and asthma directly linked to the smog situation that plagues the region’s inhabitants throughout the winter months.
Dozens of international trains face delays following an accident on the Czech Republic’s major railway route. The accident occurred shortly before 5 PM on Friday when a train hit man on the railway line near Pardubice. Czech Railways said the line should be reopened at 7:30 PM; in the meantime, dozens of express trains connecting Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia via Prague will be detoured and delayed. Several local trains have been cancelled.
President Václav Klaus on Friday re-appointed Mojmír Hampl and Vladimír Tomšík members of the board of the Czech National Bank. Their second six-year term will begin on December 1; they now serve as deputy-governors of the bank and will retain their positions. President Klaus said the bank could do more to boost the growth of the Czech economy; Vladimír Tomšík however noted the central bank’s main responsibility was to maintain the stability of the Czech currency and the inflation rate was close to the bank’s target. The Czech crown strengthened slightly upon the news.
In related news, doubts have appeared about the Interior Ministry’s method of calculating the number of invalid signatures supporting the presidential candidates’ bids. The ministry took two samples of the total amount of signatures in support of each candidate, and verified whether they were valid. It then added the two error rates and deducted it from the total number of signatures. However, the news website ihned.cz reported that according to the act on the presidential election, ministry officials should only deduce an average rate error from the total number of signatures. In that case, one of the disqualified candidates, Jana Bobošíková, would have remained in the race. Interior Ministry officials said the issue would have to be resolved in court.
The police have arrested five men and charged them with blackmail, robbery and other crimes, a spokesman for the organized crime unit of Czech police said on Friday. The men allegedly targeted wealthy people in the Pardubice region in eastern Bohemia and blackmailed them for money, using threats of violence against them and their families. They also allegedly set at least eight cars on fire, two of which belonged to police officers investigating the case, the police said.
Social Democrat Michal Hašek was re-elected the governor of the South Moravian region on Friday, following his party’s victory in October’s elections. The region will be ruled by a coalition of Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats. In the western Karlovy Vary region where the Communists won the ballot, Social Democrat Josef Novontý was re-elected governor. This was part of a deal between the Communists and the Social Democrats who formed a coalition there.
Speaking in Brussels, the Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, has said he will reject the latest draft European Union budget for the 2014 to 2020 period. He says he cannot accept a reduction in the bloc’s cohesion fund that would see the amount available to the Czech Republic fall from EUR 26.7 billion in the current seven-year budget period to EUR 19.5 billion in the next one. The funds are available to all regions except Prague. Mr. Nečas has said that the Czech Republic, unlike a number of states, is not threatening a veto, but, he added, neither would it approve any plan whatsoever. EU leaders are set to return to the negotiating table at noon on Friday, though there are fears that no agreement will be reached.
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