The core of Russian intelligence services' interest in the Czech Republic in 2011 focussed on politics and the economy, Czech Military Intelligence says in its annual report released on Tuesday. By contrast, Chinese intelligence services were reportedly most active in technological espionage. Military Intelligence also detected activities by intelligence services from the Middle East, an unclassified part of the report revealed. According to the Czech civilian counter-intelligence service BIS´s annual report released last week, Russian agents were mainly interested in information linked to the expansion of the Temelin nuclear power plant, south Bohemia; a Czech-Russian consortium is one of three bidders in the ongoing tender.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has expressed concern over
recent developments in Russia, including what he called a tightening of
conditions and the restraint of expression by civic groups. Taking part in
a meeting of diplomats at Prague’s Černín Palace on Tuesday, the
foreign minister suggested in some ways it was as if the country was
heading back to the time of the Tsars. At the same time, the foreign
minister stressed that Prague had an eminent interest in strong ties with
Moscow; he called Russia a key power and partner.
The foreign minister on Tuesday also reflected on the recent sentencing of members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot to two years in prison. Mr Schwarzenberg has consistently supported the trio and on Tuesday he compared their performance in Moscow, which landed them jail time, to social happenings in Europe 40 years ago that led to greater emancipation.
The Czech Union for Nature Conservation has expressed concern that Šumava National Park could decline as a result of an Environment Ministry plan, which – it says – will enable uncontrolled construction and put local town interests above nature conservation. The union’s chairman Libor Ambrožek, a former environment minister, told the Czech news agency that conservation in the national park would decline to such a degree it would no longer meet national park criteria. The organisation has sent an open letter to politicians, political parties, as well as the Association of Towns and the Association of Regions to try and fuel broader discussion. Under the bill, the most-protected area of the park, which forms 22.1 percent, will be allowed spontaneous development with a further 8.9 percent being added. The Czech news agency reported that over 45 years the most protected zone will grow to 24,000 hectares. Critics nevertheless charge that other interests in the area are being given equal treatment as nature conservation. A provision in the bill, for example, allows for the construction of a ski lift in another part of the park.
Police have blocked an estimated 15 million crowns belonging to MP and former Central Bohemian governor David Rath and his wife, according to sources including Czech news website idnes. The funds were deposited in the safekeeping of Mr Rath’s lawyer Adam Černý. Mr Rath is being held in custody on corruption charges; he was caught by police with an alleged seven million crown bribe on his person in May. His lawyer Adam Černý refused to confirm the exact amount but called steps taken by the police “intimidation” and “chicanery”; he added it was likely he would put forward a complaint after discussing the matter with his client. He will have three days to do so. The lower house is to meet at the beginning of September to decide whether or not to strip Mr Rath of immunity so he can face additional charges.
The executive board of the Czech Civic Democrats have called on Prime Minister Petr Nečas and party members to side strongly against the Czech Republic joining the planned European banking union. Many members of the Civic Democratic Party are warning that a Europe-wide banking union would be a step towards further EU integration and possible changes in European treaties. The European Commission is expected to submit a proposal of the banking union in the first two weeks of September. The union could potentially be one of the bigger issues debated ahead of regional and Senate elections to be held in the Czech Republic in the autumn.
Three streets in Prague’s Dolní Chabry district will be named after Czech hockey players who lost their lives in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl tragedy last year. Josef Vašíček, Jan Marek, Karel Rachůnek and 40 others (including crew members) on board their plane died at the scene when the aircraft crashed during take-off; one of two survivors died later in hospital. All three of the Czech players were added to the Czech Hockey Hall of Fame last year; the decision to name streets in their honour was taken by the Prague council.
The construction of a new elephant and hippo pavilion at Prague Zoo will cost more than originally expected: 519 million crowns instead of the original 431 originally agreed with the Skanska, the company in charge. The rise in the cost is tied to unforeseen construction costs as well as project-related analysis, Czech Radio’s Regina said.
The number of gun owners in the Czech Republic is rising, statistics by the police as well as the Czech Proof House for Arms and Ammunition have revealed. In the first half of 2012, holders of gun licences in the country bought the same amount of pistols and rifles as during the whole of last year. According to the police, there is now one gun for every 14th person in the country. In other words, there is currently a total of some 700,000 legally-held guns.
Czech tennis player Petra Kvitová has made it past the first round at the final grand slam event of the season, the US Open. She defeated Slovenian opponent Polona Hercog, 65th in the WTA rankings. The first set came down to a tie-break which Kvitová won, and the Czech fully dominated the second. The final score was 7:6 (6), 6:1.