Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Prague for his first official visit to the Czech Republic. During his two-day visit, Mr Putin is expected to discuss energy issues as well as economic, cultural and military cooperation with an emphasis on the war against terrorism. His first engagement on Wednesday was meeting with his Czech counterpart President Vaclav Klaus.
Czech fixed-line operator Cesky Telecom, whose majority owner is Spanish phone giant Telefonica, has announced that it will merge with its wholly owned mobile-telephone business, Eurotel. The merged company to be named Telefonica O2 faces increased competition on the converging Czech telecoms market. T-Mobile, owned by Deutsche Telekom, jousts with Eurotel for the top spot among mobile operators and Vodafone is third, following its acquisition of Oskar Mobile from Canada-based TIW last year.
The Czech company Explosia, which produces the plastic explosive Semtex and owns the rights to the trademark, has said it launched legal action to prevent American pop-star Madonna from misusing its most valued and internationally-recognized asset. The pop singer was revealed to have registered a company in Britain called "Semtex Girls Limited". Production of Semtex began in the 1960s but only became widely known in the 1980s as a favourite tool for terrorists because it was virtually undetectable. Because of the threat of global terrorism, the company has added a substance to make it easily detectable and now makes only small amounts of Semtex for use by the army and a number of Czech companies.
Just hours ahead of President Putin's arrival, former Czech president Vaclav Havel and several world-renowned statesmen launched an attack on Mr Putin and his policies in a text published in a Czech newspaper. The group, led by Mr Havel and including former UN Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu, sharply accused Mr Putin of "censorship" of information from Chechnya and called for the world to stop "closing its eyes" to atrocities taking place in Chechnya.
A poll carried out by the CVVM agency suggests that 23 percent of Czechs would vote for the ruling Social Democrats if elections were held tomorrow, 4 percent less than last month. On the other hand, support for the Green party has increased to 6 percent compared to 2.5 percent in January. The opposition Civic Democrats lead the poll with 28.5 percent of public support. The Communists would get some 11.5 percent and the Christian Democrats are supported by 7.5 percent of voters, according to the poll.
The Czech Republic is to order a bigger supply of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu thought to be effective against the bird flu. The National Security Council approved the decision on Tuesday in connection with the growing incidence of bird flu on the Continent. The increased reserves should suffice for 20 percent of the Czech Republic's ten million inhabitants. In the event of a pandemic the government would be ready to finance a vaccine for approximately 60 percent of the population as soon as it is made available, with high risk groups getting priority.
Thomas McKeever, head of NATO's Security Office, is expected to pay a two day visit to the Czech Republic to discuss the situation at the National Security Office following the resignation of its head Jan Mares. Mares resigned earlier this month over suspected ties with a gang prosecuted for fraud and criminal conspiracy. The Czech Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan said there was concern at NATO headquarters as to possible information leaks. Mr. McKeever is expected to arrive in Prague on Thursday.
Football goalkeeper Petr Cech was named Czech footballer of the Year on Monday evening when the results of the elite survey were announced during a gala event. The best Czech player is chosen by players and coaches alike, with Cech winning over his nearest rival Borussia Dortmund's Tomas Rosicky by 153 points. In all Cech, who plays for London's Chelsea, received 4,235 votes. Pavel Nedved, of Juventus Turin, came in third.
The Czech Exporters Association, which groups around 50 companies, has set up a crisis committee to coordinate efforts against the strengthening of the Czech crown. Exporters have suffered losses of around 15 to 20 billion crowns /530 -706 million euros/ as a result of a strengthening crown over the last few months. The association's president Jiri Grund predicted growing unemployment, possibly even bankruptcy of some exporters. Exporters say the government is directly responsible for their plight, which is further aggravated by the inaction of the Central Bank. Responding to the criticism, the Prime Minister said on Tuesday that exporters should be prepared to deal with the situation. He predicted earlier this month that the Czech currency would stand at 25 crowns per euro when the country adopted the single European currency in 2010.