Soldiers from the Czech Republic are taking part in an international military exercise, Anaconda, at the training grounds in northern Poland, which was launched on Wednesday. The ten-day exercise involves 12,500 soldiers from Poland and eight other NATO allies, including the US and the Baltic states. The operations should examine the readiness of allied forces to react to security threats in light of the military conflict in Ukraine.
The Office of the President on Wednesday received an envelope containing a suspicious white powder and a threatening letter addressed to President Miloš Zeman. Police, firemen and explosives experts were called to investigate the suspect delivery. President Zeman is currently on a visit to the Zlín region and was not in residence at the time when the package arrived. Police said tests are now being carried out to establish what the substance is.
The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday also passed a draft bill establishing a third level of the value added tax. The 10-percent rate would apply to books, medicine and baby food as of January 2015. The Czech Republic currently has two VAT rates of 21 and 15 percent. The proposal was put forward mainly to benefit pensioners and families with children by lowering the prices of the selected goods.
The biggest national betting and lottery firm and paymaster for Czech sport, Sazka, has joined the European lottery Eurojakpot. According to the Czech News Agency, Sazka has already been given permission for the move by the Ministry of Finance. Seventeen countries currently participate in the Eurojackpot lottery, which was launched in 2012. The largest ever recorded win in the Eurojackpot draw amounted to 1.7 billion crowns (approximately 61 million Euros) and went to a Finnish winner.
Czech avant-garde art from the Roy and Mary Cullen Collection will be auctioned at Sotheby’s in London during November. The art collection includes paintings by Toyen, Karel Teige and Jindřich Štyrský, which were created in the interwar period. The auction is expected to fetch around 1.7 million Euros (roughly 60 million crowns). Highlights from the Roy and Mary Cullen Collection will be exhibited in Prague at the end of October. A previous auction of Czech avant-garde and modern art at Sotheby’s in 2011 resulted in a record price of 11.1 million pounds, twice as much than the auction house had estimated.
The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday passed an amendment to the income tax bill, raising tax relief for the second child and following children. The amendment also reintroduces relief for working pensioners and reduces it for the self-employed by curbing their automatic write-offs of tax against expenses. The draft bill also reimposes tax on payments to of pensioners who earn more than CZK 840.000 a year from work. The bill will now be discussed by the Senate. If passed and signed by president Miloš Zeman, it will take effect next year.
The Czech women’s basketball team lost 41:76 to the USA in Prague on Tuesday night in a warmup game for the forthcoming World Championship. The Czechs started well but were ultimately no match for the reigning world and Olympic champions. In addition, pivot Petra Kulichová, the Czechs’ top scorer with nine points, suffered an ankle injury in the game, which took place just four days before the World Championship starts in Turkey.
Czech Airlines is planning to lay off 77 pilots, 150 cabin crew and 60 administrative staff, a third of its total workforce. A spokesperson for ČSA said the layoffs were in response to the removal of Airbus A320 planes from its fleet for economic reasons. It will try to find positions for some pilots at other Sky Team airlines. Korean Air bought a 44% stake in ČSA last year after several years of poor results for the Czech national carrier.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oligarch who spent a decade behind bars in Russia after falling foul of President Vladimir Putin, is set to attend the Forum 2000 conference in Prague next month, organisers of the annual event announced on Tuesday. This year’s Forum 2000 is subtitled “Democracy and its Discontents: A Quarter-Century after the Iron Curtain and Tiananmen”, with Russia’s growing aggression set to be among the main talking points.
The Czech Republic is not planning to take part in air strikes against Islamic State radicals. The country’s prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, and defence minister, Martin Stropnický, outlined the country’s position shortly after the US and five Arab allies launched strikes against Islamic State positions in Syria on Tuesday. The US had previously carried out air attacks on the group in Iraq. Mr. Sobotka said Prague welcomed efforts to stabilise the situation in Iraq, but did not expect to become involved in the military operations. He had earlier pointed out that the Czech Republic had sent munitions to Kurds in Iraq fighting Islamic State. Czech police chief Tomáš Tuhý said Islamists did not represent a threat to the Czech Republic at present, but Mr. Sobotka said the matter would be discussed by the Security Council.
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