Czech political leaders have condemned the murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov and urged the authorities to conduct an impartial and transparent investigation. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that in Nemtsov Russia had lost a leading authority and upstanding defender of democratic values and human rights. The perpetrators must be found and brought to justice, Mr. Sobotka said. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said news of the murder was terrifying and that words of condolence appeared insufficient in the face of this brutal killing.
Multi-millionaire entrepreneur and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš was unanimously re-elected leader of the ANO party in Prague on Saturday. Mr. Babiš, who ran for the post unchallenged, joked that the victory was “most unexpected”, saying that the single missing vote in his favour was his own. Three candidates for the post of first deputy chair withdrew their candidacy at the eleventh hour to ease the way for Mr. Babiš’ favourite - the head of ANO’s deputies’ group in the lower house Jaroslav Faltýnek. He also ran unchallenged and was elected by 153 out of 176 votes.
In an opening address to the conference, Mr. Babiš took a swipe at his own coalition partners saying the Social Democrats had a “controversial past” and criticizing the party for irresponsible and overly generous spending of public funds. He spoke out in favour of a majority election system, saying that what the country primarily needed was an action-capable administration which would tackle the problems at hand. He hinted that this was difficult due to the need to find consensus within the coalition and said he expected growing friction over policy issues ahead of next year’s regional elections.
ANO’s coalition partners have expressed surprise and anger at the party leader’s rhetoric. The Social Democrat speaker of the lower house, Jan Hamáček, said that he hoped the coalition could survive Mr. Babiš’ aggressive rhetoric and expressed serious reservations with regard to Mr. Babiš’ claim that the Social Democrats had “a controversial past”. It would be good if Mr. Babiš could be as proud of his past as we are of ours, Jan Hamáček told the ctk news agency. Meanwhile Christian Democrat leader Pavel Bělobrádek said it was obvious that Mr. Babiš was tired of having to consider his coalition partners and clearly wanted to rule alone.
Profit making Komerční banka, one of the largest Czech banks, will aid its French mother bank Societé Generale with seven billion crowns in 2015, Czech Television reported on Saturday. Two other profit making banks Česká Spořitelna and ČSOB are also expected to assist their mother companies. Together the three largest Czech banking institutions generated a profit of 41 billion crowns last year. This is seen as a sign of the stability of the Czech baking sector.
A public collection for the victims of the tragic shooting in the town of Uherský Brod is growing with individuals and towns offering financial and moral support. The local council has earmarked half a million for the immediate needs of the families of the victims and individuals have contributed 150,000 crowns to date. The town of Frenštát pod Radhoštem, which suffered a similar tragedy last year, has said it would send 100,000 crowns to the collection. The town’s inhabitants are still trying to come to terms with the tragedy, laying flowers and lighting candles outside the pub where a deranged man shot eight people dead before turning the gun on himself on Tuesday. President Miloš Zeman visited the site of the tragedy to pay his respects on Friday evening and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who has just returned from a working visit to South Korea, is expected to pay his respects on Monday.
Real estate agencies are reported to be buying up property in the towns of Horní Jiřetín and Černice which may have to give way to mining if mining limits on brown coal imposed in the early 1990s are relaxed. According to Czech Television two real estate agencies –Double B and Double Pro – have invested tens of millions of crowns into the speculative purchases. City planning authorities in the two towns have confirmed that the said real estate agencies had acquired close to a third of the houses in Horní Jiřetín and Černice in view of making huge profit if the towns are slated for demolition. A decision on whether to relax the limits is expected in the spring.
A number of traffic restrictions are being affected along Prague’s Nusle Bridge which is currently undergoing a major phased-out reconstruction. Over the weekend one lane has been closed to traffic in both directions. Nusle Bridge is a concrete viaduct in Prague that spans the Nusle valley. The bridge is one of the backbones of Prague’s transportation network. Its construction began in 1965 and the bridge was completed in 1973, a year before the first metro line was opened in Prague.
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