The Czech Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by fugitive Czech-born Irish financier Viktor Kožený and his associate Boris Vostrý, upholding their sentences of ten and nine years, respectively, for fraud, a spokesman for the court said. Mr Kožený, who resides in the Bahamas and is wanted for bribery by the US, was convicted in 2010 of having caused some 16 billion crowns of damages to a privatization fund he created in the 1990s. The men argued they were denied the right for fair trail, a claim rejected by the Supreme Court.
Czech figure skater Tomáš Verner has backtracked on his earlier decision to retire after the Sochi Olympics. In a statement released by his agent on Tuesday, the 28-year-old said he was going to compete at the world championships to be held in Japan next month. Verner finished 11th at the Winter Games; he was planning to take part in a series of exhibition events alongside Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko before retiring and completing his university studies. However, the Czech figure skater said that as the series was cancelled, he decided to postpone his retirement until after the world championships.
The country’s education minister, Marcel Chládek, has announced the finding of an additional 200 million crowns in savings at his ministry, following on a similar announcement of 150 million last week. The latest funds, he said had been allocated as a buffer for unspecified future projects. The minister said Monday that he wanted finances saved to be divided among teachers’ salaries, school equipment and sports. Audits underway are expected to find further areas where money at the ministry can be saved or better spent.
The Czech Republic cannot halt trade relations with Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told reporters on Monday – reaction to statements by two government ministers earlier who cast doubt Russian firms could win a tender on the completion of the Temelín nuclear power plant. Both Defence Minister Martin Stropnický and Jiří Dienstbier, the minister for human rights, stated they could not imagine Russian companies completing units at Temelín given Russian military intervention in Crimea. The prime minister stated later, however, that the government could not interfere in the tender in which the rules were transparent and laid out. Mr Sobotka said there were no "political criteria" which would allow the government to interfere.
Czech customs officers at the weekend uncovered a record 182 kg shipment of heroin, worth almost 750 million crowns, being transported by truck. Jiří Barták, spokesman of the Customs Directorate, revealed the news on Monday, saying the shipment was the largest ever seized on Czech soil. Preliminary tests, he said, suggested the purity of the drug was 60 percent, while on the street the percentage would be far lower, around 15. The target destination, he suggested, was not the Czech Republic.
Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnický has said he finds it difficult to imagine that Russian firms would complete new units at the Czech Republic’s Temelín nuclear power plant in light of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. On Monday, the minister accused Russia of blatantly ignoring international law; he said the country could no longer be counted among predictable democratic states, calling its actions “unacceptable”. Fellow minister in government Jiří Dienstbier expressed a similar view, saying that while it was only his personal opinion, he could not imagine Russian companies taking part in the tender, stressing that a country that resorted to military aggression represented a security risk. The Russian consortium MIR 1200 was in the running against US-based Westinghouse to complete the power plant. The Czech government has officially condemned Russia’s actions in Crimea and has called on Russia not to resort to military action.
This winter is looking to be the driest on record, the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute reports, citing precipitation well below monthly averages: 40 percent of the average in December and 62 percent of the norm in January, officials said. Liberec, north of Prague for example, sees an average of 173 mm, but this winter registered only 65. Given this year’s winter was uncharacteristically warm, meteorologists say the dry period continuing into the spring months can be expected.
Fuel prices at filling stations in the Czech Republic will rise in about the middle of March in connection with the conflict in the Crimea largely due to higher prices of crude oil on global markets, the Czech News Agency reportED MOnday after polling analysts. Global crude oil prices reacted to growing tension between Russia and Ukraine on Monday morning and climbed to several month highs, analyst Miroslav Novák of Akcenta told ČTK. Prices of petrol and diesel oil in the Czech Republic could rise by one crown per litre in two weeks.
A new poll by the STEM agency suggests that many Czechs regard as the least important, in the election calendar, elections to the European Parliament. The survey asked those questioned to rank elections by points. Communal elections topped the list (receiving top marks from 63 percent), followed by the general election, regional elections, the presidential election, and voting to the European Parliament. Only 27 percent of those queried gave EP elections top ranking in terms of importance. All of the political parties in the Chamber of Deputies recently announced the names of their leading candidates; the EP election is scheduled for May.
Fire damage to an historic mountain chalet known as “Libušín” - designed by Art Nouveau era architect Dušan Jurkovič and inspired by folk architecture - is likely to total tens of millions of crowns. The chalet, which served as a restaurant in Pustevny in the Beskydy Mountains in the east of the country, erupted in a blaze on Sunday; as a national heritage site the true extent of the damage is practically incalculable, experts say. More than 70 firefighters worked to get the fire under control but strong winds stoked the flames on the roof and through the interiors, which featured frescoes and sgraffiti designed by Czech painter Mikoláš Aleš. The chalet, named after the mythical Princess Libuše, was opened in 1899.
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