Czech politicians and cultural figures have sent condolences to Russia over the plane crash that killed 92 people, including 64 members of the famed Alexandrov military music ensemble. In a telegram to President Putin, Czech President Milos Zeman said he had been deeply shaken by the news. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka expressed regret over the loss of lives, saying it was a terrible human tragedy. Singers Karel Gott and Helena Vondrackova who sang with the famous ensemble also expressed deep sorrow over the tragedy. The Russian military plane, with 92 people on board, crashed into the Black Sea early on Sunday. Debris and several bodies have been found, with no reports of survivors.
In what has become an annual tradition, politicians served carp soup to the public on Prague’s Wenceslas and Old Town squares on Dec. 24. Originally the soup, which is part of the traditional Christmas meal, was intended for the homeless, but with growing interest from the public it became something of a social event with scores of people turning up to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere at the two main Christmas markets. Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová and Prague 1 mayor Oldřich Lomecký served over 3,000 portions of the traditional Christmas soup which is made with cognac and caramel. The event took place amid heightened security.
Czech tennis star Petra Kvitová has said in her first media appearance after her apartment attack and operation that she is convinced she will be able to play. Kvitová underwent a four hour operation on her left hand Tuesday after being the victim of an attack by an intruder. She said that before the operation she could not feel any sensation in her fingers but that returned afterwards. She said the best Christmas present was after the operation when the surgeon has said it went well. The two times Wimbledon winner said it amounted to the same if she was able to return to top tennis after a few months or if it took a year. She added that she would do everything to return to form.
Prague zoo is offering the chance to see a golden pig on Christmas Eve without having to fast for the whole day. The zoo is preparing a series of Christmas period treats. On Christmas Eve children will be allowed into the zoo for just one crown. A special feeding and exercise session of sea lions is also scheduled. The golden pig as well as a polar bear should also be on show. Visitors are also being encouraged to bring in special treats for the animals for Christmas day. These could be dried or fresh fruit, nuts, or biscuits. The legend of the golden pig is party of Czech Christmas lore. It’s said that those who fast on Christmas Eve will see a golden pig. The tradition is said to date back to pre-Christian times. The zoo will be open but with more limited visiting hours over the whole Christmas period.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has confirmed that a Czech national was among the victims of the Berlin terrorist attack. The woman resided in Germany long term and her husband reported her missing shortly after the attack. Her identity has been confirmed by a DNA test. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek have sent condolences to her family and offered assistence. The foreign minister later said in a press conference that German authorities had still not identified two victims of the attack but that it was highly unlikely that these were also Czechs. The main suspect of carrying out the Berlin attack was later reported to have been shot dead by Italian police outside Milan.
The Czech debt for 2016 should shrink by around 60 billion crowns this year to stand at 1.613 trillion crowns according to minister of finance and ANO leader, Andrej Babiš. That would be the lowest level since 2011. Babiš said that the coalition government had so far trimmed 70 billion crowns off the total state debt. The debt to GDP ratio should fall to 34.3 percent from the end 2015 level of 36.7 percent. Analysts expect the debt to climb by up to 25 billion crowns in 2017.
Czech cinemas are heading for a boom year in 2016, surpassing 2015 according to attendances so far and the response to end of year blockbusters. 2015 was already a successful year with 12.9 million individual visits and box office takings totalling 1.67 billion crowns. In the first three quarters of 2016, attendances have been around 17 percent higher than last year. A number of pre-Christmas releases have also proved to be hits. These include the fairy story Anděl Páně 2, which has sold 560,000 tickets in three weeks following release, and the latest in the Star Wars saga, Rogue One, which has sold 105,000 tickets.
The owners of the Czech travel agency Invia have bought up the biggest on-line German agency, AIDU as well as the leading air tickets portal, Fluege.de. Joint owners of Invia, the investment group Rockaway and Chine company CEFC said that the deal is expected to be finalized at the start of 2017. The turnover of the two new German acquisitions is estimated at around 924 million euros a year (around 25 billion crowns). The move has been described as a first step into Western European markets.
Czechs have turned to debt in a pre-Christmas splurge of spending in November and December, according to the daily Dnes. It said pre-Christmas loans by banks and other lenders are up by around a tenth on the same period in 2015. And many lenders expect the heavy volume of lending to continue into January with the new year sales. One non-bank loans agency said the size of individual loans is around a quarter higher than last year.
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