Hurricane-force winds have hit areas in the north of the country, namely in the Krkonoše and Jeseníky Mountains. Strong winds have also hampered conditions in western Bohemia. Elevated areas are the most affected, also seeing fog, snowfall and ice. Petr Dvořák of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute confirmed 122 kilometre per hour winds in the area of the Jeseníky Mountains. The Šumava area, in the west of the country, by comparison, has seen gale-force winds of around 70 kilometres per hour. Stormy weather has worsened conditions on roads in the Karlovy Vary region, Ústí nad Labem and elsewhere and motorists are advised to exercise caution. Friday has seen numerous traffic complications such as trucks stuck in snow drifts and other accidents. Some train routes have seen delays.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has come under fire from opposition MP and shadow foreign minister Lubomir Zaorálek after Mr Schwarzenberg wore a pin mocking Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the Czech Chamber of Deputies on Thursday. According to press reports, the badge referred to the Russian leader with dog commands, such as “Putin heel!”. The Czech foreign minister has responded by saying it was only a joke, stressing that he would be disappointed if Mr Putin were offended by it. He also said he wasn’t sure exactly what was written on the pin, explaining that he had worn it to please someone who had given it to him. Social Democrat Lubomir Zaorálek called the incident “surprising” and “unfortunate”.
A poll released by the daily Lidové noviny on Thursday has suggested that the majority of Czech business leaders oppose the Czech Republic contributing to saving the euro, the EU’s common currency. Almost 4,700 business leaders would are against loaning 90 billion crowns in the effort to save the euro – charging the country had enough of its own debt problems already. Those in favour, just 28 percent, argued that a refusal to help would have negative consequences for the country (the Czechs are members of the EU since 2004 but are not in eurozone). Some of those surveyed fear that some labour markets could be closed for Czechs in response. The Czech centre-right coalition government has not yet decided whether to contribute the needed funds (which are more than 10 percent of the country’s total currency reserves).
The country’s finance minister Miroslav Kalousek was handed a 1,000 crown fine by the Prague 1 administrative office in a fast-track decision on Friday. The fine is in response to the minister having slapped a young man on September 21 of this year. The fine was paid on Friday. In September, Mr Kalousek slapped the individual after he shouted at him on the street, calling Mr Kalousek “a crook” who would “hang”. The minister said, despite having committed a misdemeanour, he stood by his actions, indicating it was a matter of honour. The provocateur’s actions were also classified as a misdemeanour by the police.
Members of the Czech civic association Bliss Without Risk (Rozkoš bez rizika) gathered on Friday at a Prague park near the city’s main train station to honour the memory of 20 sex workers murdered in the Czech Republic since the year 2000. Eighteen of those killed were women. Members taking part in the march in their memory carried red umbrellas and placards, calling for an end to violence against prostitutes. Hana Malinová, the head of Bliss Without Risk, spoke on the occasion, saying that violence against sex workers was by no means going down, saying the organisation’s counselling service registered that each sex worker experienced one or two cases of brutality per month. The association has a database of 8,000 names – 80 percent of whom are Czech nationals, more than half of whom are single mothers. One of those to take part in Friday’s commemoration was documentary filmmaker Helena Třeštíková, who is making a film about the association.
A new poll released by the STEM agency has suggested that if a national election were held today it would be won by the opposition Social Democrats, while the Christian Democratic Party would gain enough votes to pass the five-percent threshold to the lower house, which it failed to do in 2010. According to the survey, the Social Democrats would pick up 80 seats in the 200-member Chamber of Deputies, while their right-of-centre rivals the Civic Democrats would get just 44. The Communist Party would pick up 37 seats, while the other right-of-centre party in government, TOP 09, would get 32. The Christian Democrats would clinch seven, the survey suggests. Public Affairs, the protest party of choice for some voters in the last election, would not make it into the lower house at all, a result suggested by numerous agencies in recent months. According to STEM, its candidates would get only 2 percent of the vote, a drop in 0.2 percent since November.
A Brno court has ordered the region of Zlín to pay three million crowns in damages to parents who lost their child in the year 2000, after the driver of a gritting vehicle equipped with a snow-plow failed to give right-of-way, crashing with the family’s automobile. The family’s eight-year-old daughter died in the crash and the mother, although she survived, suffered permanent disability – psychological problems that she is reportedly not able to overcome. The couple’s marriage fell apart afterwards. The former husband and wife are to receive 1.5 million each. The couple’s legal representation had been asking for 10 million in damages but the court did not recognise all charges. The decision can still be appealed.
A 25-year-old woman died in the early hours of Friday after jumping from Prague’s Charles Bridge. Witnesses reported the woman jumped shortly before 1:30 am, hitting the icy water and swimming several metres before disappearing below the surface. Police retrieved the woman from the water and emergency crew members worked to revive her. But she died later in hospital. A day earlier, another woman, 23 years-of-age attempted to take her life jumping off of another bridge in Prague but survived. The patient is recovering in hospital.
President Václav Klaus and Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka on Friday opened a new permanent exhibition highlighting the St Vitus Treasure at Prague Castle. Items included – on display for the first time in 20 years – make up one of Europe’s largest church treasures; the collection consists mainly of reliquaries containing the relicts of St Vitus and other Catholic saints that have been collected since the 10th century. The items are displayed at the Holy Cross Chapel at Prague Castle.
Czech football club Viktoria Plzeň will face German side FC Schalke 04 when play resumes in the Europa League. The draw for the round of 32 took place on Friday at UEFA headquarters in Nyon. The winner of the round will go on to face either Steaua Bukurešť or Twente Enschede. The match-up is being seen as a positive one for Plzeň – which should see good play from both squads. It was expected the club would face either Brugges, Sporting Lisabon, Besiktas, Lutych, PAOK Soluň, Eindhoven or Schalke.