The comedy Babovřesky has set a new Czech box-office record after selling 140,000 tickets in its opening week. The film stars the likes of Lucie Vondráčková and Lucie Bílá and is directed by Zdeněk Troška, who says its huge success is down to the fact it allows viewers to enjoy a laugh and escape from their daily concerns. Critics have received the film coolly. Mr. Troška, who has a string of successful movies to his name, has also directed operas.
The authorities in Bulgaria are planning to strip the Czech power giant CEZ of its distribution license in the country on Tuesday, Bulgaria’s Focus news agency reported, referring to a statement made by the country’s prime minister, Boyko Borisov, at a news conference in Sofia. People in Bulgaria have been protesting against what they regard as the excessively high prices for electricity charged by CEZ and an Austrian company. An analyst told the news website iHned.cz that a forced exit from Bulgaria could cost CEZ as much as CZK 15 billion.
The vice president and current acting head of the Supreme Audit Office, Miloslav Kala, says the incoming head of state Miloš Zeman supports him for the post of president of the agency. Mr. Kala made the comments after a meeting with Mr. Zeman on Tuesday. He is the nominee of the Social Democrats, a party Mr. Zeman previously headed but with which the president-elect today enjoys mixed relations. The Supreme Audit Office has been without a head since the departure of František Dohnal, to whom a court handed a suspended sentence for failing to allow an investigation into the agency’s financing.
The Chamber of Deputies has approved the sending of Czech soldiers to Mali, where they will take part in a European Union mission. If the legislation is passed by the Senate, around 50 Czechs will be sent to the West African state, where as well as training local troops they will guard a base in the capital Bamako. Prime Minister Petr Nečas, who is currently also acting defence minister, said the soldiers’ role would be a non-combat one. The Czech mission is mandated to last for a maximum of 15 months.
The Bulgarian authorities are looking into the electricity prices charged by Czech and Austrian power distributors following an avalanche of complaints from the public. Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev said that once it had the results of an audit the government would make a final decision on whether there are grounds for revoking their licenses. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across the country on Sunday to protest against what they call excessive electricity prices set by the Czech power distributor ČEZ and the Austrian energy company EVN. There have even been demands for the country’s distribution network to be nationalized. ČEZ claims that the higher electricity bills in January reflect higher consumption over the Christmas holidays and a colder-than-usual winter. ČEZ recently had its license revoked to operate Albania’s national grid after drawn-out disputes over tariffs and unpaid bills.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Monday decorated 18 freedom fighters against communism, members of the so-called “third resistance”. Among them are Josef Čech, who spent 15 years in jail for secretly helping political prisoners in the Jáchymov uranium mine in the hardline 1950s, Charter 77 signatory and human rights activist Dana Němcová and protest singer and songwriter Jaroslav Hutka. Several people were awarded posthumously. A law on the so-called Third Resistance came into force in late 2011 opening the way for proper recognition of those who actively fought the communist regime. Those who are recognized as having been part of the active opposition are entitled to one-off payments and top-ups to their pensions.
MP Roman Pekarek has started serving a five-year sentence for corruption. The lower house deputy reported to the Hradec Kralove jailhouse amidst huge media interest on Monday morning. Mr. Pekarek made it clear he considers the verdict unfair and is refusing to give up his mandate until he has exhausted all legal means of fighting his sentence. He says he plans to petition the Supreme Court to review his case. Pekarek was found guilty of accepting a one million crown bribe for selling municipal land to a businessman under price. He is the first deputy to be sentenced to prison during his term in office. The case has led MPs to initiate a bill under which convicted deputies would lose their salary and possibly even be stripped of their mandate in future.
Police are investigating Sunday’s gas explosion in Frenštát pod Radhoštěm as a threat to public safety. The number of victims has risen to five, three of them children between the age of 3 and 8. Eleven people were injured in the explosion that completely demolished a block of flats. Two of the injured remain in critical condition. Emergency crews are still sifting through the debris in search of the last missing person. According to media reports the accident may have been caused by a man who used gas in cylinders to heat his home after having his heating cut off over unpaid bills. The man did not get on with his neighbours and had repeatedly threatened to kill everyone.
The Prague Steamboat Company is considering filing a criminal complaint in connection with Sunday’s accident on the Vltava River. One of the company’s steamboats, which is currently used for advertising purposes, came loose from its mooring and was borne downstream crashing into one of the pillars of Prague’s Palacký bridge. The company says this could not have been an accident since the boat was anchored and moored by seven steel ropes. Company head Dušan Sahula says the runaway boat’s trajectory suggests someone pushed it away from the embankment.
A court case against 18 right-wing extremists opened in Brno on Monday. Some of the accused are members of neo-Nazi bands such as Devils Guard, Imperium or Attack. The others assisted in organizing at least 14 concerts in the years 2008 and 2009 at which they distributed the band’s CDs, leaflets, badges and neo-Nazi memorabilia. If convicted of spreading Nazi ideology members of the group would each face up to eight years in prison. It is one of the biggest court cases against neo-Nazis in the country’s modern history.
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