The police on Friday questioned Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Jaromír Drábek in connection with bribery charges raised against his deputy, Vladimír Šiška. Mr Šiška was arrested last week over alleged corruption related to an overpriced IT deal at the ministry. Minister Drábek, who said he would step down from his post at the end of the month because of the scandal, reiterated on Friday he believed in his deputy’s innocence.
In related news, the police warned on Friday that 12,000 litres of methanol-laced liquor were still unaccounted for. The head of the special police team investigation the methanol crisis, Václav Kučera, said only 3,000 litres of the deadly beverage had been found to date. Mr Kučera also appealed to the public to exercise caution when drinking spirits, and said he himself had been very careful in doing so since the outbreak of the crisis.
Polling stations opened across the country at 2 PM on Friday for Czechs to
vote in Senate and regional elections. Voters will choose assemblies in 13
of the country’s 14 regions – with the exception of Prague. Voting is
held in conjunction with elections to a third of the Senate. Polling
stations will close at 10 PM on Friday to reopen the next day between 8 AM
and 2 PM. Some 10 percent of the voters turned up in the course of first
few hours, the news agency ČTK reported.
At present, the opposition Social Democrats head governments in all the regions and look set to maintain much of that advantage. The elections are widely perceived as an indicator of public opinion on the government’s austerity drive.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 6:3, 7:6 in the quarterfinal of the Shanghai Masters tournament on Friday and reached the event’s semifinals. The fourth-seeded Czech had a great serve in the match and only made few errors to wrap the game in one hour and 34 minutes. Another Czech player, Radek Štepánek, was knocked out of the tournament when he lost to third seed Andy Murray of the UK 4:6, 6:2, 6:3.
The amount of garbage produced in the Czech Republic per inhabitant has been steadily rising in the past decade, the Czech Statistical Office reports. In 2011 Czechs produced 320 kilos of municipal waste per head i.e. 41 kilos more than in 2002. However Czechs have also improved in sorting waste and 46 kilos of the waste produced annually per inhabitant can now be recycled.
Another patient has been admitted to hospital with methanol poisoning. Doctors say his condition is serious. It is not clear where he got the contaminated liquor. There are estimates that isolated cases of poisonings can appear up to 6 months after the crisis and people have been warned not to drink uncertified spirits they have at home. Meanwhile the police have arrested another salesperson who had contaminated bootleg liquor in his possession bringing the number of people charged to 26.
Czech fuel prices are reported to have decreased in the past week, with petrol Natural 95 selling for 37.93 crowns a litre, a drop of 0.10, and diesel oil prices down by three hallers to 36.90 crowns per litre. Analysts say the drop is marginal in view of the price hikes over the summer and give drivers little hope of a significant decrease in the coming months.
Commenting on the situation in Syria, Prime Minister Maliki said Iraq would never allow anyone to use its territory to supply weapons to Syria. He said his country’s borders were well guarded and Iraq was closely monitoring all flights across its territory. The prime minister said Iraq had already banned a certain country’s flight across Iraq, without specifying the country concerned. The US and some other states suspect Iran of supporting the Damascus regime by supplying weapons to it, using both air and ground routes via Iraq.
The transport ministry has said it will invest close to two billion crowns into modernizing some 400 rail crossings around the Czech Republic. Many crossings are considered unsafe due to malfunctioning lights, no gates or poor visibility. There are around 1000 crossings in the Czech Republic at which trains need to slow down to ten km per hour because of poor visibility and in the past three years 105 people have been killed in accidents at rail crossings.
On an official visit to Poland on Thursday President Klaus met with his Polish counterpart Bronislaw Komorowski, to discuss bilateral ties, European and global issues. In the evening the Czech head of state will attend a dinner given in his honour and meet with the speakers of both chambers of Parliament. During the talks President Klaus praised the quality of bilateral relations saying the two neighbouring states were close in many ways and had developed close business and trade relations. Poland is the Czech Republic’s 3rd biggest export destination with 7.3 billion euros worth of goods being exported to the country last year. Polish imports to the Czech Republic amounted to 7.1 billion euros.
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