The Czech Republic is against relaxing the arms embargo to Syria. Speaking ahead of an EU meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said the Czech Republic would join Austria, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands in opposing such a move, not least because more weapons would only lead to further violence and in the present situation there is no saying where they might end up. Responding to the argument that more weapons would help the opposition force President Assad into a negotiated settlement, Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg pointed out that the opposition in Syria was already getting weapons from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey and that had not helped it oust the regime.
Part of a derelict block of flats collapsed in Ostrava in the early hours of Monday. Six squatters escaped from the building unharmed. Firefighters with sniffer dogs sifted through the debris but found no one else. All three floors of the building collapsed and the rest of it is slated for demolition. It is not clear if persistent rain over the past few days contributed to the accident.
Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek says he made a last-minute attempt to prevent the extradition of Russian businessman Alexej Torubarov to his homeland. In an interview for Lidove Noviny the finance minister said that when he learnt that an extradition order had been signed without the asylum proceedings having been properly concluded he had called the control tower at Vaclav Havel Airport and ordered them to prevent Torubarov’s plane leaving at any cost and even place a tanker in its way. The plane eventually left with Torubarov on board and his family have now filed charges against the Czech Justice Ministry for allowing his extradition. In Russia the businessman is wanted for fraud and blackmailing an intelligence officer but he claims that he is being persecuted by the Russian intelligence service. Foreign Minister Karel Schwazrzenberg said his extradition was a regrettable mistake caused by a bureaucratic mix-up.
Although the Czech prime minister met with a group of human rights advocates in Moscow, he remained non-committal in the course of the debate and had little sympathy for jailed members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot. Mr. Nečas said that in his eyes they were no freedom fighters but young people who had desecrated the Orthodox Church and been punished for it, albeit too severely. He warned the media against creating what he called “false idols”. The prime minister’s lukewarm stance on human rights violations in the country elicited criticism from Radio Liberty which recalled one of his earlier statements that support for the Dalai Lama or Pussy Riot would not be allowed to jeopardize Czech business interests.
Some institutions in the public sector reportedly hike their employee figures in order to get more money for wages. The daily Pravo broke the news on Monday saying that while government austerity measures had frozen salaries in most public sector institutions Prague Castle employees got regular salary hikes. This was possible due to the fact that the Office of the President artificially raised the number of employees to 114 while in reality it was employing merely 87. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek told Czech Television that this tactic, employed by some firms, was unethical but not strictly illegal since it was hard to prove that the additional posts would not be filled shortly.
The Office for the Protection of Private Data has slapped the Litomerice Prison a hefty 50,000 crown fine for leaking prison photos of former central Bohemian governor, MP David Rath to the press. The photos of Mr. Rath, which appeared in the tabloid daily Blesk, were in the data base of the prison service to which approximately 5,000 people had access at the time. The head of IT at the jailhouse was sacked over the incident. It was never ascertained who was responsible. MP David Rath has been in custody since has charged with corruption in May of last year.
On a working visit to Russia PM Petr Nečas on Monday said the country afforded considerable business opportunities for investment and trade. Following a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, Mr. Nečas said the two sides had agreed to strengthen business relations and tap mutual investment opportunities. Trade has picked up in recent years with the trade turnover in 2012 exceeding six billion U.S. dollars for the first time in history. The Russian prime minister also lobbied for the Russian-Czech consortium which is one of the bidders for the multi-million crown tender to complete the construction of the Temelín nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia. Prime Minister Medvedev said that by selecting the Russian-Czech consortium the e Czech Republic could secure a 156 billion crown investment for its industrial sector.
The police have released pictures of a driver who put hundreds of people at risk on May 10th by driving in the opposite direction on Prague’s southern ring-road at a speed of 150 km per hour. The police gave chase but the man refused to stop even after officers fired warning shots. The chase ended in a field and the man disappeared into a nearby forest. They have been unable to trace him and are asking the public for any information that could help discover his present whereabouts.
Kevin Dahlgren, a US national suspected of murdering a four-member family in the Czech Republic, allegedly admitted he had committed the crimes in a text message to an Austrian friend. The Austrian tabloid server Krone.at reported the news, citing Czech detectives. "I´ve killed four people, I´m heading for Vienna," the suspect wrote, according to the daily. Mr Dahlgren, 20, was arrested in the US after arriving in Washington D.C. last week. The victims, murdered in Brno´s Ivancice neighbourhood last Wednesday, were local residents: a married couple and their two sons.
Talks on forming a new administration at Prague City Hall are proving slow and difficult. After forcing its centre-right coalition partner, the Civic Democrats, into the opposition last week and unseating its mayor Bohuslav Svoboda, TOP 09 held talks with the Social Democrats on Monday. The opposition party, which clearly stated it had no intention of entering into a coalition with TOP 09, brought a list of 30 conditions as a pre-requisite for future cooperation. TOP 09 representatives rejected ten of them outright, ten more are said to be acceptable and the last ten are open to debate. The two sides will meet again on Thursday. The idea of a new coalition agreement with the Civic Democrats is not being ruled out but the centre-right party refuses to return unless TOP 09 is prepared to re-instate Bohuslav Svoboda to office.