The Prague embankment Smetanovo nábřeží was evacuated on Tuesday afternoon because of a gas leak. Around 200 people were ordered to leave Charles University’s Faculty of Social Sciences, a spokesperson for the Prague fire service said. Cars were also prevented from using the route. A spokesperson for Pražská plynárenská gas company said a faulty connector had been to blame for the problem, which had been brought under control.
Czech crime boss Radovan Krejčíř has been sentenced to 35 years in prison by a court in Johannesburg. The 47-year-old had been found guilty last year of attempted murder, kidnapping and drug dealing. Reacting to the announcement of his punishment, Mr. Krejčíř described it as shocking and said he would appeal. He fled the Czech Republic in 2005 during a police search of his luxury home near Prague and later became one of the most notorious criminals in South Africa. Since being arrested the Czech has made multiple escape bids. He was found guilty of fraud in the Czech Republic and received a six-year jail term in absentia.
The ombudswoman, Anna Šabatová, has asked the Constitutional Court to overturn a government decree setting a lower minimum wage for people on disability benefits. At present the minimum monthly wage for the disabled is CZK 9,300, CZK 600 less than for able-bodied employees. Ms. Šabatová described the state’s approach as pure discrimination. She called on labour inspectors not to wait for the verdict of the Constitutional Court but to immediately force employers to create equal conditions for all employees.
If the UK leaves the European Union there will be a similar debate in the Czech Republic in a couple of years, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Tuesday. He warned against Czechs quitting the bloc, which he said would leave the Czech Republic once again in Russia’s sphere of influence; that would be an absolute negation of developments in this country since 1989, he said. British voters are due to go to the polls in a referendum on whether to remain in the EU in June.
A Prague court has released former first deputy minister of labour, Vladimír Šiška, who was accused of illegally making sure a billion-crown contract to check social benefits went to the company IBM. Charges were also dropped against court expert Vladimír Smejkal, who was suspected of delivering a false expert opinion in the matter. The judge said no direct evidence of the pair’s complicity had been proven. The state prosecutor can appeal against Tuesday’s ruling.
The minister of culture, Daniel Herman, is not planning to accede to demands to dismiss the head of the National Film Archive, Michal Bregant. A group of cameramen have been in dispute with Mr. Bregant for some years over the NFA’s approach to digitising old Czech films. Responding to a letter from the cameramen and a number of directors, the Office of the Government said Mr. Herman was unaware of any reasons to dismiss the NFA chief. The cameramen, who are members of the Film and Television Union, posted the response on the association’s Facebook page.
Photographs by Andy Warhol have gone on display at the Czech National Gallery’s Salm Palace building in the Prague Castle complex. The institution received the works – which include a cross-section of the pop artist’s photographs, including portraits and street scenes – as a donation from the Andy Warhol Foundation in the US. The National Gallery was among 10 institutions around the world to be given the last remaining photographs in the foundation’s collection.
Tuesday is the 25th anniversary of the breakup of the Civic Forum. It was founded as a loose opposition grouping during the Velvet Revolution before subsequently winning the first free elections in Czechoslovakia in over four decades in 1990. Different political streams gradually emerged and the establishment on 23 February 1991 of the Civic Democrats, who became the main right-wing force in Czech politics, and the Civic Movement, a centrist party that failed to enter Parliament at the next elections in 1992, marked its end.
Unions at the Paskov mine, which is slated for closure before the end of the year, have gone on strike alert over the lack of a social programme to help laid-off miners. Paskov belongs to the OKD mining company which is in severe financial difficulties and has announced the planned closure of three mines. Paskov currently has 1,700 workers. Unions say that a social programme must be on the table by April and should include requalification courses for miners ahead of dismissal, the possibility of some of them being transferred to other mines and severance pay depending on the number of years in service. The Czech government has refused OKD a bailout package, saying it will focus on helping laid-off employees. However the various forms of government assistance are also in the pipeline.
A total of 98 transport construction projects in the Czech Republic worth 130 billion crowns in total face problems in drawing EU subsidies, according to the governor of South Moravia Michal Hašek. Previously officials said 64 construction projects worth 90 billion were endangered. The EU requires new Environmental Impact Assessment studies (EIA) for these projects, which will delay their construction and the drawing of EU subsidies. The Czech Republic is negotiating a special regime for the projects in question with the European Commission. In case the talks fail, Hašek has proposed an alternative solution in drawing subsidies for regional rail and road projects for which EIA is not required.
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