03-11-2003

President Vaclav Klaus' visit to Moscow, photo: CTKPresident Vaclav Klaus' visit to Moscow, photo: CTK Two stories feature prominently on the covers of today's Czech dailies, the first being tragedy in Iraq over the weekend, the second, President Vaclav Klaus' visit to Moscow, where he met officially with Vladimir Putin. On its cover MLADA FRONTA DNES shows a Blackhawk landing at the site of a downed Chinook helicopter, where fifteen U.S. soldiers died, while PRAVO features a photo of Mr Putin in discussion with Vaclav Klaus while his wife Livia looks on. Both Mr Putin and Mr Klaus saw their meeting - the first of its kind in ten years - as an historic start in new relations between Russia and the Czech Republic.

MLADA FRONTA DNES, however, remains somewhat sceptical of the "new Russia", writing that the recent arrest of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorovsky could be an indication of a return to the heavy-handed style - and unpredictability - of Mr Putin's predecessor Boris Yeltsin.

The daily writes that although Mr Putin has generally been credited with bringing stability to Russia, the decision to make an example of Mr Khodorovsky - in a country where crime during privatisation was widely rampant - suggests the situation in Russia is far from ideal. And, a return to earlier power tactics by the ruling elite - the daily suggests - would be bad news for all, including the Czech Republic. Till now Mr Putin was considered a politician of the new order, not a man of the past.

Turning to another story making headlines: who wouldn't want to retire rich? HOSPODARSKE NOVINY writes that the number of well-to-do pensioners in the Czech Republic is growing, even though the number still stands at less than 1 percent. Of those who are well-off and retired some seven hundred receive more in old-age pension than the average monthly salary. Consequently many are able to take luxury vacations every year. Still, the paper says, the number of lucky pensioners is so negligible that marketing agencies or sociological surveys rarely take note.

According to HOSPODARSKE NOVINY, rich pensioners in the Czech Republic include individuals who, for example, gave up control of their own companies, worked for multi-national corporations, or were returned property stolen by the communists under the former regime. Says the daily most well-to-do retirees are male and have a university education. More often than nought they also hail from Prague.

Retiring well-off is certainly a target to aim for - but what do you do when fate inexplicably intervenes? It's hard to imagine receiving anything - including medical insurance - when you no longer officially exist, which is what patient Miroslav Stechlik discovered from his doctor in Brno on a recent visit. MLADA FRONTA DNES writes that upon checking his file the doctor found the name of another citizen listed with Mr Stechlik's birth certificate number. That, to put it in mild terms, is something of a hassle.

Mr Stechlik now has the task of contacting the Interior Ministry to confirm his certificate number, which will take about a month. Till then he remains uninsured and the paper quotes him as saying he would have no idea what to do were he to suddenly fall ill. As for how the mistake may have happened in the first place: the insurance company tells Mr Stechlik it was probably a blunder at the Immigration Office, where it seems likely they gave Mr Stechlik's personal number to somebody else. Unpleasant? No question. On the other hand, the mistake has been "unofficially" corrected for now, meaning if things came to worst the unfortunate Mr Stechlik would not be left "high and dry".

Finally, high and dry is where Communist Party leader Miroslav Grebenicek could find himself in coming months if he proves unable to fend off growing competition for the leadership within his party. LIDOVE NOVINY writes that Mr Grebenicek's position, untouchable for years, has recently grown more tenuous.

MP Vaclav Exner tells the paper that up to eight candidates may vie for his post. Party deputy leaders Vojtech Filip and Miloslav Ransdorf have already indicated they will throw down the gauntlet. Whether Mr Grebenicek will succeed or will be replaced is a question that will only be answered at the party's convention next May.

03-11-2003