Heavy snow and icy roads have disrupted traffic across the Czech Republic. Some 15 cm of fresh snow fell in most parts of the country since Friday night, covering most minor roads as well as some sections of motorways. Hundreds of road accidents have occurred, blocking some of the major Czech motorways. Two outbound flights from Prague‘s Václav Havel Airport have been cancelled, dozens of others are delayed. The authorities in the district of Šternberk have declared a state of calamity, with a number of roads in the area closed for traffic. The authorities have asked drivers to take extra caution and keep off the roads if they can as more snow is expected over the weekend.
The organized crime unit of the Czech police has charged six people with corruption, including four members of the judiciary, Prague’s supreme attorney Lenka Bradáčová said on Saturday. Among those facing the charges of bribery, fraud, blackmail, and abuse of authority, is a judge of a Prague district court, a state prosecutor, an attorney and a junior attorney who are suspected of colluding to influence court verdicts, Ms Bradáčová said. Five of the accused have be released, one remains in police custody.
Using a DNA analysis, the police have identified a sixth victim of last weekend’s blast in an apartment block in the north Moravian town of Frenštát pod Radhoštěm, a spokeswoman said. The explosion killed three children, two women and a man; another 11 people suffered injuries. The police believe the only man who died in the explosion, a 57-year-old tenant of one of the apartments, deliberately set if off by opening a gas valve in the basement of the building. Further tests to determine what happened should be finished in several weeks’ time.
A communist member of South Bohemia’s regional council, Václav Kučera, will step down next week, the daily Právo reported on Saturday. Mr Kučera found himself under public pressure to resign over his collaboration with communist-era military intelligence, part of the notorious StB secret police. The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia won seats on several Czech regional governments in last year’s elections which provoked a series of protests, particularly in the South Bohemian and Karlovy Vary regions.
Former members of the Czech national hockey team which won the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998 met in Prague on Saturday, 15 years after their triumph. All but five players have arrived for the occasion; Jaromír Jágr, Milan Hejduk and Roman Hamrlík play in the NHL, Jiří Dopita plays in a lower Czech division, and Petr Svoboda, who scored the winning goal in the Olympic final against Russia, could not come from the US for work reasons. The team’s coach, Ivan Hlinka, died in a car crash in 2004. The team will launch an exhibit of photos and memorabilia from the Olympic tournament at Prague’s Veletržní palác.
The top Czech football division has resumed after a three-month winter break. The first round of the spring part of the competition saw two ties on Friday, with Teplice drawing 1:1 against Dukla Prague, and Jihlava tied 0:0 with Hradec Králové. The Gambrinus liga’s 17th round continues with more games over the weekend; Baník Ostrava drew 0:0 against České Budějovice on Saturday, with Milan Baroš’s first appearance for the home side after 11 seasons abroad. League leaders Plzeň take on Brno on Sunday while Sparta Prague, in second place, host Slovácko. Jablonec, ranked third in the table, play Liberec on Saturday.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Friday signed agreements with 16 churches and religious societies on financial compensation amounting to 59 billion crowns for property confiscated by the communist regime. The agreement is part of a broad property restitution deal, approved by Parliament earlier this year. The churches are set to receive the funds over a period of 30 years. After that time, they will receive no public funding. The agreement has come under criticism from the opposition which on Thursday lodged a last-minute complaint against it with the Constitutional Court. The court’s secretary said on Friday it would be proper for the Czech government to postpone signing the contracts until the Constitutional Court delivers a verdict on the issue.
In related news, the Baptist Union in the Czech Republic rejected an agreement with the government on financial compensation, the group’s head, Milan Kern, said on Friday. The church was set to receive some 228 million crowns under the deal; however, Mr Kern said they would rather fund their church with contributions from members. The Baptists are the only church which took part in the property restitution negotiations that eventually refused to sign the agreement. The group has around 2,500 members.
Several members of the judiciary are under investigation by the organized crime unit of the Czech police, according to a report by Czech TV. The broadcaster said that among those investigated was Prague district judge, Ondřej Havlín. The police reportedly interrogated some people on Thursday, and are now searching “public offices” for evidence. Prague’s supreme attorney Lenka Bradáčová said more details of the case would be released over the weekend.
This year’s deficit of Czech public finances should not exceed 3 percent of gross domestic product, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said on Friday. Mr Kalousek’s remarks came in a reaction to an estimate by the European Commission which predicted the deficit would reach 3.1 percent of the country’s GDP. Keeping the gap below 3 percent would bring an end to the excessive deficit procedure launched against the Czech Republic by the European Commission in 2009, Mr Kalousek said. The finance minister however warned the target could only be met provided that European economy does not experience any dramatic downturn.
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