Police say they are leaning toward the view that a fatal explosion at an apartment building in the north Moravian town of Frenštát pod Radhoštěm on Sunday was caused deliberately by a resident. Police chief Martin Červíček said on Tuesday that he believed a serious criminal act had been committed. Another police representative said reports that a 62-year-old man who lived in the basement of the building had barricaded the doors had not been confirmed. The fire is thought to have broken out in different parts of the structure at the same time. At least five people were killed in the blast, including the suspected arsonist and three children. Two survivors are fighting for their lives in hospital.
The authorities in Bulgaria are planning to strip the Czech power giant CEZ of its distribution license in the country on Tuesday, Bulgaria’s Focus news agency reported, referring to a statement made by the country’s prime minister, Boyko Borisov, at a news conference in Sofia. People in Bulgaria have been protesting against what they regard as the excessively high prices for electricity charged by CEZ and an Austrian company. An analyst told the news website iHned.cz that a forced exit from Bulgaria could cost CEZ as much as CZK 15 billion.
Reacting to developments surrounding CEZ's position in Bulgaria, the Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, said on Tuesday that he expected that Bulgaria, as an EU member, would adhere to its international commitments and treaties regarding the protection of investments. Mr. Nečas said he believed the dispute over electricity prices had become politicised and said comments made by Bulgarian officials were out of the ordinary. Speaking in Brussels, the Czech minister of industry and trade, Martin Kuba, said the situation was alarming, adding that he was prepared to discuss the matter with the European Commission.
The Chamber of Deputies has approved the sending of Czech soldiers to Mali, where they will take part in a European Union mission. If the legislation is passed by the Senate, around 50 Czechs will be sent to the West African state, where as well as training local troops they will guard a base in the capital Bamako. Prime Minister Petr Nečas, who is currently also acting defence minister, said the soldiers’ role would be a non-combat one. The Czech mission is mandated to last for a maximum of 15 months.
The Supreme Administrative Court has confirmed the victory of Miloš Zeman in last month’s presidential vote after on Tuesday rejecting the last of over 100 complaints filed against the election. Several of the challenges related to the presidential campaign, in which claimants said Mr. Zeman had employed untrue, xenophobic and nationalistic arguments. The court said some of the victor’s statements could have been perceived as incorrect, demagogic or even mendacious; however, they were not so serious as to force the abrogation of the election, it said. The unsuccessful claimants can in theory now turn to the Constitutional Court, but such a course would not prevent Mr. Zeman’s inauguration on March 8.
František Čuba, the 77-year-old former head of a Communist-era agricultural collective, will serve as an advisor on farming issues to President Miloš Zeman when he is installed at Prague Castle, the two men announced after a meeting on Tuesday. Mr. Čuba, who is a member of Mr. Zeman’s Citizens’ Rights Party, is known for heading a collective farm at Slušovice in South Moravia in the 1980s; the farm achieved a “socialist miracle” by branching out into other areas of the economy and generating huge turnover.
The vice president and current acting head of the Supreme Audit Office, Miloslav Kala, says the incoming head of state Miloš Zeman supports him for the post of president of the agency. Mr. Kala made the comments after a meeting with Mr. Zeman on Tuesday. He is the nominee of the Social Democrats, a party Mr. Zeman previously headed but with which the president-elect today enjoys mixed relations. The Supreme Audit Office has been without a head since the departure of František Dohnal, to whom a court handed a suspended sentence for failing to allow an investigation into the agency’s financing.
Sixty-eight percent of Czech households regularly sort their waste, suggests a study carried out by the STEM/MARK agency. Only 4 percent of respondents said they never sorted their waste, saying they believed that all rubbish ended up in the same place anyway. The mostly commonly sorted items are paper, plastic and glass, with sorting figures of above 90 percent, while only 42 percent of those surveyed said they separated biodegradable waste.
The renowned Czech jazz musician and flautist Jiří Stivín has said he will not appear at a special concert for President Václav Klaus that is set to take place on March 3, less than a week before the head of state steps down after a decade in office. Mr. Stivín said he has disagreed with some of the positions adopted by Mr. Klaus recently, including his criticisms of his predecessor, Václav Havel; he said if he appeared at a show “thanking” Václav Klaus it might appear he agreed with his presidency. The president has taken an active interest in a series of concerts entitled Jazz at the Castle since it began at Prague Castle in 2004.
The comedy Babovřesky has set a new Czech box-office record after selling 140,000 tickets in its opening week. The film stars the likes of Lucie Vondráčková and Lucie Bílá and is directed by Zdeněk Troška, who says its huge success is down to the fact it allows viewers to enjoy a laugh and escape from their daily concerns. Critics have received the film coolly. Mr. Troška, who has a string of successful movies to his name, has also directed operas.