One of the greatest Czech heroes of World War II, General Frantisek Perina, has died in Prague at the age of 95. General Perina won a reputation as an excellent fighter pilot during the Battles of France and Britain, but was forced out of the Czechoslovak Army by the Communists after the war. He went into exile in 1949 and spent many years in Britain and the United States before returning to the Czech Republic in 1993. The general received many state honours both at home and abroad, including the Czech Order of the White Lion.
Celebrations have been taking place in Plzen to mark its liberation by United States soldiers on May 6, 1945. American jeeps were driven around the centre of the west Bohemian city, while many people donned US Army uniforms. But organisers say the turnout was considerably lower than for the 60th anniversary last year. Some ceremonies marking the end of the war were also held in Prague. Monday - Victory in Europe Day - is a state holiday in the Czech Republic.
The Czech ice hockey team got off to a less-than-ideal start at the World Championships on Friday night, drawing 1:1 with host nation Latvia. Coach Alois Hadamczik said the team had failed to take advantage of their powerplays, and were poor in both passing and shooting. The Czech Republic's next game is against Slovenia on Sunday.
A court in Prague has exonerated another Czech World War II pilot, Josef Bryks, Mlada fronta Dnes reported. After serving with the RAF and spending time in a German prisoner-of-war camp, Bryks was sentenced to hard labour in a Communist show trial; he died in the 1950s while working in a uranium mine. His English-born widow Trudie Bryks said it was ironic it had taken so many years for the sentence to be rescinded. The Confederation of Political Prisoners has asked the president to grant the pilot a posthumous state honour.
Health Minister David Rath says he does not rule out the possibility of a Civic Democrat minority government supported by his Social Democrats. Speaking in Lidove noviny, Mr Rath said that was one possible variant, and would be better than a "grand coalition" of the Civic and Social Democrats. However, his party colleague Bohuslav Sobotka said such a configuration was not being discussed by the Social Democrats: he said if they cannot form a government it would be better to go into opposition. The Civic Democrats continue to head the polls four weeks ahead of the elections.
The office of Czech President Vaclav Klaus has revealed that the
president has vetoed a bill that would have established a network of
non-profit hospitals within the country's health care system. The bill,
which would have transformed almost 150 hospitals currently managed by
local authorities into public facilities financed from health insurance
payments, was passed in April with support from Social Democrat and
Communist MPs. It will be returned to the lower house for a new vote.
Mr Klaus - a former head of the right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party
- has indicated that he opposed the bill on the grounds that it was the
wrong approach towards the country's troubled health sector.
The veto comes less than a month before general elections on June 2nd and 3rd: health care reform is considered a major issue in this year's election run-up.
The Czech Army's record contract for 234 armoured transporter vehicles,
won last year by Austrian-based Steyr Daimler Puch with a bid of over
one billion dollars, faces a legal threat, according to the Czech
online news server aktualne.cz. A Prague court ruled this week that the
Italian bidder for the contract, Iveco Fiat, was unfairly eliminated
during the first round, the server has reported, citing the company's
Czech lawyer, Viktor Bradac. According to Mr Bradac, the ruling means
that the Ministry of Defence cannot sign the final contract with Steyr,
a subsidiary of US defence giant General Dynamics, since - in his view
- Iveco is back in the tender.
The Ministry of Defence spokesman so far has said that the ministry can not comment until it receives a written version of the court's decision.
The NHL's New York Rangers have announced that Czech ice hockey star Jaromir Jagr will undergo surgery to a dislocated left shoulder on Monday. Jagr suffered the injury in the third period of the first game of the Rangers' first-round playoff series against New Jersey. After missing game two, Jagr struggled in game three and took another hit in the shoulder in game four to end his season. The Devils ousted the Rangers in a four-game sweep. Jagr, a finalist for this year's Most Valuable Player award, set Rangers' franchise records with 54 goals and 123 points this season.
An Interior Ministry commission investigating a case of alleged police
brutality against May Day demonstrator and human rights official
Katerina Jacques, has recommended that one officer in question face
criminal charges. The commission is still weighing the nature of the
charges - including causing bodily harm. On May 1st Mrs Jacques was
taken into police custody after a clash with policeman Tomas Cermak.
Jacques, along with a number of witnesses, stated that she was kicked
and beaten with a truncheon by the officer before being handcuffed.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek was swift in criticising the police
Mrs Jacques has herself now filed charges against the police officer.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has backed fellow Social Democrat and
Agriculture Minister Jan Mladek, saying Mr Maldek posed no threat to
state security following information released by a Czech daily saying
that the minister had been refused a clearance certificate by the
National Security Authority five years ago, allowing him, for example,
to access secret documents. The prime minister has said that he has no
information at his disposal that Mr Mladek - as agriculture minister -
posed any kind of danger. At the same time, he said that he expected
the minister to undergo vetting to dispel any doubts about his security
suitability - even if not required by the law.
The daily Mlada fronta Dnes wrote earlier this week that the National Security Authority had refused to grant Mr Mladek security vetting in 2001 when he was deputy finance minister. According to the paper, Mr Mladek had connections to a number of Russian business figures suspected of having links to Russian intelligence services. The minister has denied any such contacts, and dismissed the claim as mere allegation.
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