Illegally-held firearms that were found at the Palestinian embassy in Prague came from the 1970s and 80s and have not been used in criminal activities, the Czech police have said. The police found four sub-machine guns and eight pistols along with an explosive at the embassy in January; the building was searched following a blast that killed the Palestinian ambassador to Prague on New Year’s Day. The causes of the incident are under investigation; meanwhile, the Palestinians have officially apologized for the illegal weapons and the explosion to the Czech Foreign Ministry.
The country’s most notorious prisoner Jiří Kajínek, who is serving a life sentence for two gangland murders, has been transferred from the maximum-security jailhouse in Mírov to a lower security institution where he will be allowed to work and will gain greater freedom of movement. The transfer was ordered by the regional court in Olomouc. Jiří Kajínek never admitted his guilt and has repeatedly called for a re-trial of the case. He escaped from prison on three occasions. His life story was recently made into a film.
In Sochi for the Winter Olympic Games, President Milos Zeman on Friday met with his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping for talks focusing largely on economic cooperation. The two statesmen agreed to renew the activities of a Czech-Chinese commission for economic cooperation, which last met in 2009, and the Czech president said Prague would host a meeting of Chinese and central and east European leaders in view of revitalizing business ties. The last such meeting took place in Warsaw in 2012. The Czech and Chinese presidents also exchanged mutual invitations for state visits. The last official visit by a Chinese leader to Prague took place before the fall of communism in 1987.
The right wing opposition TOP 09 is trying to get Ludek Niedermayer, former vice-governor of the Czech central bank, to head its list of candidates in the May election to the European Parliament, daily Mlada fronta Dnes reported on Friday. Niedermayer, now Director of Consulting at Deloitte Czech Republic, worked for eight years as vice-governor of the Czech National Bank and has been close to TOP 09 senior officials, especially to its leader, former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
Transport Minister Antonin Prachař has said linking up the country’s highways to the European network is a top priority. The minister said he wanted to push ahead with work on the D3 highway to Linz and the R52 motorway to Vienna. The minister has announced a shakeup at the Road and Highway Directorate where he ordered a financial audit. A new management is to be installed within two months.
Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek has said the repressions in Ukraine must stop. Speaking at a press briefing in Prague on Friday the Czech foreign minister said the international community could not close its eyes to the torture, threats and beatings to which political opponents were being subjected in Ukraine. Mr. Zaorálek said that the 20th century provided ample proof of the danger of ignoring oppression which left unchallenged would spiral out of control. He called on the Ukrainian leadership to release all detained activists, search for the missing and punish those responsible. He said the Czech side was ready to provide humanitarian aid to the injured and financially support the democratic transformation process in Ukraine.
The "Sochi-Letná Olympic Park" opened in Prague’s Letná park on Thursday night. The park features a skating ring, a snowboard slope and other attractions as well as live broadcasts from the Olympic Games. Prague City Hall spent around 66 million crowns on the attraction. Several dozen people came to protest against the park’s costs and Russia’s poor human rights record.
The Plzen branch of the Civic Democratic Party is losing more members following the departure of former justice minister Jiri Pospíšil. Mr. Pospíšil, who was a leading figure of the party’s Plzen branch for 14 years, announced his departure last week citing loss of support from the party’s central leadership. Ten more party members have left in his wake and others are expected to follow. The Civic Democrats suffered a humiliating defeat in October’s general election following a corruption scandal that brought down the Civic Democrat-led, centre-right government last summer.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said during question and answer time in the lower house on Friday that his cabinet would not offer guarantees on the purchase price of electricity generated at the Temelin nuclear power plant in connection with its planned expansion. Experts say that the $15 billion project would only be economically feasible if the government were to guarantee higher energy prices, thereby putting a financial burden on the state or directly on consumers. CEZ, the state-owned power utility which runs the plant, has been stalling on a final decision whether to go ahead with the massive construction project and has indicated it is not ready to commit without such guarantees.
In related news, leader of the Czech Communist Party and lower house deputy chair Vojtěch Filip said the late Vasil Biľak’s role in the build-up to the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia could not be denied. However, today’s views of the letter asking the Soviet Union to interfere were “varied”, according to the Communist leader. Mr Vojtěch’s comments sparked controversy among Czech politicians; the opposition Civic Democrats said they would initiate a motion to vote Mr Filip out of office in the lower house.
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