The prime minister of Ukraine, Mykola Azarov, will on Monday arrive in
Prague for talks with officials in an attempt to restart political dialogue
between the two countries, the news agency ČTK reported. The visit comes
months after Czech-Ukrainian relations took a serious downturn; in May,
Ukraine expelled two Czech embassy workers in retaliation for Prague having
granted asylum to a former Ukrainian government minister.
During the brief official visit, Mr Azarov is set meet with Czech PM Petr Nečas to discuss mutual cooperation, particularly in the energy and industry sectors, as well as Ukraine’s approximation to the EU; the Ukrainian leader will also meet Czech President Václav Klaus.
Europe will survive even if the euro collapses, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said in an interview for the German daily Rheinishe Post that came out on Saturday. Mr Schwarzenberg said he agreed with his Polish counterpart, Radek Sikorski, in that Germany should play a leading role in saving the euro. The Czech foreign minister said Europe was a political project; the euro was one of the reasons why the project succeeded economically but was not a fetish. When asked about his chances of becoming the next Czech president, Mr Schwarzenberg said they were smaller every day as the country was shifting to the left and his candidacy was unlikely to draw majority support in two year’s time, when the next Czech head of state will be elected.
Storm Joachim hit the Czech Republic on Friday night, disrupting traffic in several areas. Strong winds, reaching hurricane force winds in places, and snowing blocked roads and railway routes namely in the Krkonoše and Jeseníky Mountains. International trains traveling along the Prague-Břeclav line were delayed. Fire brigades had to clear roads in the worst-hit areas of eastern Bohemia. Up to 45 cm of fresh snow fell overnight in elevated areas. Meteorologists warn that similar conditions will continue in parts of the country into the weekend.
Three apartment buildings in Jirkov, a town in the north-west of the Czech Republic, were evacuated in the early hours of Saturday due to a fire, a spokesman for the local fire brigade told the ČTK news agency. The fire broke out inside the technical shafts in one of the buildings at 3:20 AM and it took the fire brigade over six hours to extinguish it. Some 90 people had to leave their homes and were accommodated in hotels; around 30 of them won’t be able to return home until next week, a spokesman for the town said. The cause of the fire is being investigated.
The novel The Prague Cemetery, by the Italian author Umberto Eco, has won the daily Lidové noviny’s prestigious Book of the Year poll. The book about conspiracy theories received the highest number of votes – 11 – from some 200 writers, translators, critics, and others, invited to take part in the poll, first time held in 1928. Second came Martin Hilský’s translation of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and third a publication marking the 20th anniversary of the Torst publishing house.
A week before Christmas Eve, Czech girl and boy scouts on Saturday began distributing the Light of Bethlehem around the country. The Light of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, arrived in the Czech Republic from Vienna on Friday, was first taken to St Vitus Cathedral in Prague where it was blessed by Archbishop Dominik Duka. On Saturday, scouts are distributing it by train to all corners of the Czech Republic for people to light their own candles. The tradition of the Light of Bethlehem first appeared in then Czechoslovakia in December, 1989.
The police are searching for three armed men who robbed a cash van in Prague on Friday. The police have not yet said how much money was stolen and how exactly. The incident took place at around 8:30 PM on Friday near a distribution centre of the Pilsner Urquell brewery on the outskirts of the capital; no one was hurt in the robbery. Dozens of police officers have been deployed in search of the three armed robbers.
The Czech national hockey team on Saturday beat Finland 5:1 in their second appearance at Channel One Cup, the Moscow leg of the Europe Hockey Tour. The Czechs had little trouble overcoming a second-rate Finnish team, and controlled the whole game. Defender Jakub Krejčík scored in his first appearance for the national team. After losing to Sweden 2:1, the Czech now rank second with three points in the tournament’s table, and third in the series’ overall standings. On Sunday, the Czech national team faces Russia.
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”.