Vlastimil Picek has become the Czech Republic’s minister of defence, after being officially named by President Miloš Zeman on Tuesday morning. Mr. Picek, who is not party-affiliated, was chief of the general staff of the Czech Army for five years and had been serving as first deputy defence minister. His appointment comes three months after the sacking of his predecessor Karolína Peake, who lasted only a week in the post. Prime Minister Petr Necaš held the defence portfolio in the interim. President Zeman said he respected the general as an expert who was familiar with the problems of his ministry.
The biggest party in the coalition government, the Civic Democrats, would only win 22 places in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies if an election were held this month, suggests an opinion poll just conducted by the STEM agency. The opposition Social Democrats, who also came first at the last election, would be clear winners with 84 MPs, the survey indicates; next would be TOP 09 with 44 seats, followed by the Communist Party with 22. The Christian Democrats and the Citizens’ Rights Party-Zemanites would also win seats in the lower house.
Police have shelved a criminal complaint taken by the team of defeated candidate Karel Schwarzenberg over a full-page advertisement that appeared in the tabloid Blesk on the eve of the second and final round of a presidential election in January, the website Tyden.cz reported. The ad urged voters not to support Mr. Schwarzenberg, an aristocrat who spent much of his life in Austria, and highlighted his disagreement with the post-war expulsion of Czechoslovakia’s German populace. The candidate’s team said the advert contravened the electoral law. It was paid for by lawyer Vladimír Zavadil, who was a secret police officer under the Communist regime.
A group surrounding wealthy businessman Karel Janeček have filed a criminal complaint against the Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, for countersigning a controversial amnesty declared by former president Václav Klaus at the start of the year. Mr. Janeček had previously called on members of the Senate to file a treason complaint against President Klaus at the Constitutional Court in connection with the amnesty, which they did a few days before he stepped down a fortnight ago. Responding to the latest move, Mr. Nečas said filing criminal complaints was becoming the Czech national sport. The most controversial aspect of the presidential amnesty saw some cases involving alleged large-scale corruption halted.
The energy giant CEZ has struck a huge deal with Czech Coal under which the latter will supply it with fuel for its Počerady power station. The contract, which follows lengthy negotiations, is valued at around CZK 200 billion and will run until 2060. The deal also includes an option for Czech Coal to buy Počerady in the future, though the price has not been revealed. It is one of the biggest transactions ever seen on the Czech market.
Heavy snow falls have caused problems on roads and railway lines around the Czech Republic, such as at the Tanavld border crossing with Poland, and relatively high numbers of accidents have been reported. In some parts of the country, 40cm of snow fell between Monday and Tuesday. With temperatures above zero, the snow is expected to thaw quickly and there have been warnings of icy surfaces on Wednesday morning.
People in the north Bohemian village of Roudníky have been angered by an advertisement from a real estate agency offering for sale the local church, complete with a mortuary and a cemetery containing around 50 graves, the website Tyden.cz reported. The parish went bankrupt two years ago after an investment in a sawmill proved unsuccessful. One man told Tyden.cz that his great-grandparents, parents and parents-in-law were buried there; he said he could understand the sale of the church, but not the graveyard.
The Czech Mint in Jablonec nad Nisou is to issue a collection of four gold and silver medals in tribute to the late graphic artist Oldřich Kulhánek, who designed the country’s banknotes, the news site iDnes.cz reported. In recent years, Kulhánek – who died earlier this year at the age of 72 – had been working with the national mint on large gold medals bearing motifs from banknotes; the same motifs will appear on the miniatures currently being produced.
The English Premier League club Arsenal are interested in buying Czech goalkeeper Petr Čech from their London rivals Chelsea, the Daily Mail reported. Čech, who is currently in Prague with the Czech squad ahead of a pair of World Cup qualifiers, has won virtually every trophy possible in nine years at Chelsea. Meanwhile, his international teammate Tomáš Rosický has said he will consider his situation at Arsenal in the summer; the 32-year-old midfielder has not been a regular starter for the club this season.
Intensive efforts are underway to try to secure the release of two Czech women kidnapped in Pakistan last week. No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction. The two women, both in their mid-20s were kidnapped in Balochistan province when unknown assailants stopped their van. The guard traveling with them was later released. The Czech Foreign Ministry has so far been unable to trace their whereabouts and is communicating with the local authorities. It has warned Czechs against making trips to the region. President Zeman met with the Pakistani ambassador to Prague on Monday and handed over a letter to the Pakistani president asking for assistance in the matter. There is speculation the two women could have been abducted to Afghanistan.