Czech officials have offered their condolences to Russia in the wake of a bomb blast on a St Petersburg metro train on Monday that killed 11 people and injured several dozen more. In a telegram to President Putin the Czech head of state Miloš Zeman said he was shocked and angered by the attack against civilians. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek likewise condemned the attack, saying their thoughts were with the victims’ families. Words of support and solidarity have also come from party leaders, deputies and MEPs.
A key task ahead of the EU will be to minimize the damage caused by Brexit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said following talks in Berlin with the prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and his Slovak counterpart Robert Fico stressed the need for the EU to hold a common line in the Brexit talks. The meeting, held on the 25th anniversary of the signing of the German-Czechoslovak Treaty on Good Neighbourliness, focussed on Brexit, the migrant crisis and the upcoming German road toll, which other EU members consider problematic and discriminatory. Commenting on the migrant crisis, Prime Minister Sobotka said EU nations should have more ways of showing their solidarity in dealing with the migrant crisis, not only the reception of migrants, but also providing aid in the countries of their origin or protection of the EU’s outer borders. Both the Czech and Slovak prime ministers stressed the value of the Visegrad Four group in presenting different views to EU problems and their ability to focus on what unites rather than divides them.
The Czech Foreign Ministry says it has no information to suggest that Czech nationals may have been among those killed or injured in an explosion on a metro train in St. Petersburg on Monday afternoon. At least 10 people were reported killed and dozens injured after an explosive device was detonated on a metro train in the centre of Russia’s second biggest city. The whole of the city’s metro system was closed in the aftermath of the blast and a number of streets at ground level were also cordoned off. It is not clear if the attack was criminal or terrorist. The Czech Foreign ministry has urged Czechs in St. Petersburg to contact their relatives at home.
Two Czech citizens have been charged with human trafficking in the UK, the Czech national centre for fighting organized crime reported on Monday. The two men were active in Cardiff, Wales since 2012 where they offered young Czechs lucrative work but later confiscated their papers and forced them into manual labour for food and accommodation. They were beaten and forced to work long hours in several jobs. If convicted they would face a prison sentence of five to twelve years.
The police are investigating a man from Brno on suspicion that he served in the armed forces of a foreign state. The man is believed to have fought in the Iraqi army. He has rejected the accusations saying he had only sough employment with a private security agency. Under Czech law serving in the armed forces of a foreign state is illegal and punishable by up to five years in prison. Such incidents are extremely rare. Since the country joined NATO in 1999, no Czech citizen has been tried or convicted of such a crime.
The Czech consulate in the Ukrainian city of Lvov is snowed under with requests for work visas to the Czech Republic, Czech Television reported. In the first three months of this year the consulate received close to three thousand visa applications, which is more than in the entire preceding year. Despite a pressing need for more Ukrainian workers in the Czech Republic, only a third of the applications were processed. The Czech Foreign Ministry has now increased the monthly quota for workers from Ukraine promising that as of May the consulate should issue around 800 work visas a month.
The Czech Republic should introduce IDs with electronic chips as of 2018, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said at a conference dealing with IT in state administration on Monday. The government is also trying to push ahead with the introduction of electronic prescriptions and sick leave certificates which should lower the administrative burden on doctors and patients and improve control of paid sick leave. Many older GPs in the country oppose the move arguing that they do not have an internet connection and such conditions would put them out of business. The two-day conference should also announce the winner of the best municipal web page.
The Supreme Court has upheld a six-year sentence for an arson attack against a lodging house which was home to 18 Romany inhabitants, including 8 children. Two young men, who sympathised with the neo-Nazi group Blood and Honour, splashed the building with petrol and threw Molotov cocktails into the house. Luckily the inhabitants of the lodging house managed to put out the fire in time and no one was hurt in the incident. One of the youths convicted appealed the decision on the grounds that there were no injuries. The judge rejected the argument, stressing the gravity of what he said was a premeditated, racially-motivated attack.
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