The former president of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma has cut short his holiday in the Czech Republic and left for Kiev, where authorities are seeking to question him over the gruesome death of a reporter. Prosecutors want to question the former president after Yury Kravchenko, who served as his interior minister, was found dead on Friday just hours before he was due for questioning on the murder of an investigative reporter five years ago. Mr Kravchenko reportedly accused Mr Kuchma and his entourage of leading to his suicide in a note. Mr Kuchma had been vacationing in the West Bohemian spa town of Karlovy Vary.
The Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has officially apologised for giving
rise to a political row by some of his ill-advised statements in
connection with the controversy over the way he financed his apartment. In
a live address to the nation in Czech Television's evening news programme
on Saturday, Prime Minister Gross also announced his wife was going to
terminate all her business activities in order to put an end to the
current political crisis. The Prime Minister also pledged to put forward a
bill shortly which would, as he said, clarify matters related to the
private finances of politicians and state officials.
Mr Gross has been under fire for several weeks over questions as to where he got money to buy his apartment six years ago, and how his wife funds her business.
In response to Saturday's Social Democrats' confidence vote, the head of the coalition Christian Democrats, Miroslav Kalousek, said it was the Social Democrats' internal decision. He repeated that his party had given the Social Democrats until after their party conference to deal with the problem. The chairman of the third government party, the Freedom Union, Pavel Nemec, welcomed the result saying it was a positive signal for the stability of the current coalition. The deputy head of the opposition Civic Democrats, Petr Necas, said that the Social Democrats' decision does not change the fact that confidence in the government has been compromised. The opposition Communist Party said it was up to the Social Democrats how they dealt with their own affairs.
Earlier on Saturday, the Prime Minister and acting head of the Social Democratic Party, Stanislav Gross, said that he considered the government crisis, triggered by the controversies surrounding his family's private finances, to be over. In a confidence vote on Saturday morning, the Prime Minister received the strong backing of the Social Democrat leadership in a move to put to rest a row over his personal finances that threatened to topple the government. In three weeks' time Prime Minister Gross will seek election as Social Democrat leader at the party's national congress.
The Czech Commission for the privatisation of fixed-line operator Czech telecom has "okayed" the entry of France Telecom into the government tender. Several firms are now vying to bid for the state's 51 percent majority share including the firms Blackstone, CVC, and Providence. At the same time the commission acknowledged withdrawal by the consortium of PPF, J&T, InWay and Tiscali, which had bid an estimated 71.3 billion crowns, or approximately 3 billion U.S. dollars. The withdrawal is otherwise not expected to have a wider negative impact on the tender - given the entry of France Telecom.
An agreement by the country's ruling coalition parties to try and diffuse an on-going government crisis has been criticised by president Vaclav Klaus, who says the agreement reached does not go far enough. Mr Klaus had called for greater guarantees by the government to ensure stability for the rest of its term, but called its current steps "half-hearted", only postponing the problem. In the president's view the coalition will remain on the brink of breaking up for several weeks. The government crisis erupted last month when a major Czech daily questioned the financing behind Prime Minister Stanislav Gross' luxury flat. Business dealings by the prime minister's wife have also come under scrutiny.
The head of the Prague AIDS Centre Marie Stankova has said that the treatment of AIDS patients has been put under threat following budget cuts by the Health Minister. Mrs Stankova was reacting to a statement deleted from health ministry regulations that had previously allowed centres to cross budget "ceilings". Mrs Stankova says that centre officials had repeatedly discussed the problem with the Health Ministry. She says that unless some compromise can be reached, centres will have to consider limiting treatment with new effective but costly medication. Of 730 HIV-positive patients registered in the Czech Republic, 350 are undergoing treatment.
The Czech Republic will sponsor an assessment study of the extent of damage caused by fire in the Chilean national park Torres del Paine, the Chilean press wrote on Thursday. The fire was caused last month when a Czech tourist's stove overturned, causing wildfire to spread rapidly through 16,000 hectares of forest. An official Czech delegation has expressed deep regret for what happened and is now holding talks with the Chilean side.
A 32-year-old miner from the east Moravian region of Ostrava is in stable condition following an accident Thursday that killer his 24-year-old colleague. A hospital spokeswoman said the man had suffered no broken bones and no internal organ damage. He was injured and his colleague killed when the mine's conveyor equipment broke down. The exact cause of his colleague's death remains unknown.