The 60th annual vendage or grape harvest celebration in Mikulov in southern Moravia attracted record numbers at the weekend: some 50,000 visitors between Friday and Sunday to the town of 8,000. The mayor would like to see an increase of 20,000 more next year. At Mikulov Castle, visitors were able to taste from 400 different local samples in competition. The harvest celebrations included amphitheatre performances by well-known Czech pop groups such as Nightwork and Olympic.
The New York Times, in an article from September 7, cited a US national intelligence report from 1991, now declassified, stating that both the Soviet Union and Iran but also states such as the former Czechoslovakia (then a communist regime) provided chemical agents, delivery systems or training to Syria pre-1991. In the 1980s, Syria built up its chemical weapons stockpile and weapons arsenal despite opposition from an “expanding group of nations”, according to the daily. Some of those weapons, it suggested, may have been deployed in the attack on civilians in Damascus on August 21. American President Barack Obama is currently weighing oppositions against the Assad regime; the Czech Republic, like some of its neighbours, has stated it favours of a diplomatic solution over a military strike.
President Miloš Zeman has come under fire for getting actively involved in campaigning for October’s general elections. Social Democratic party leader Bohuslav Sobotka said in a televised debate on Sunday that it was unacceptable for the president to openly support his Citizens’ Rights Party-Zemanites on hundreds of billboards, allowing it to feed off his own election success. Meanwhile,TOP 09 deputy chair Miroslav Kalousek said Mr. Zeman had begun campaigning in the general elections when he appointed his close associates to the Rusnok cabinet and was now touring the regions to boost his party’s chances in the elections. Mr. Kalousek warned that the president was usurping more and more powers and was now the real leader of two left-wing parties on the Czech political scene – his own Zemanites and the Social Democrats, where he was gaining increasing influence.
The Czech duo Andrea Hlaváčková and Lucie Hradecká won the U.S. Open women's doubles title on Saturday with a 7-6(4) 6-1 6-4 win over Australia's Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua. Hlaváčková and Hradecká, who upset Serena and Venus Williams in the semi-finals, overcame a swift start from the Australians and finished strongly to claim their second major doubles title following their 2011 French Open triumph. It was also a second title for Hlaváčková at this year's U.S. Open after she teamed up with Belarusian veteran Max Mirnyi to win the mixed doubles on Friday.
The investigation of the spying scandal that brought down the centre-right government of Petr Nečas should be concluded in the course of October, according to police president Martin Červíček. Mr. Červíček said the case was taking time since there was a large amount of evidence to be analyzed that required assessments by independent experts. Several people have been charged with abuse of office in connection with the case, including the former prime minister’s chief of staff Jana Nagyova who secretly ordered the military intelligence service to shadow his wife. The former and current heads of the military intelligence service have likewise been charged.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout has said those responsible for the atrocities in Syria should be brought before an international war crimes tribunal. In a debate on Czech public television minister Kohout said the use of chemical weapons against civilians was a crime against humanity which the international community could not ignore. He and his predecessor in office Karel Schwarzenberg agreed that a military strike against Syria now seemed inevitable, though the Czech Republic would prefer to see a political solution. The Czech embassy in Damascus, which now serves US and Slovak nationals as well, is to remain open for the time being.
Police are investigating the theft of diamonds worth half a million crowns from an exhibition of precious stones at the Letnany fairgrounds on Saturday. The stones on display were reportedly stolen by a female visitor who was filmed by one of the security cameras in the vicinity. The police have asked the public for help in identifying the woman.
Former Czech president Vaclav Klaus has slammed a declaration by Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit urging young Europeans to hoist integration to a new level. In a petition published on his web page, Mr. Klaus warns that Europe’s radicals “both red and green” such as Mr. Cohn-Bendit are pushing for the final transformation of the EU, originally an international organisation, into a European super-state, designed to destroy the historical European states together with the concept of democracy that is indivisibly and inseparably associated with them. He warns against the creation of a European "melting-pot of nations" in the style of the old Soviet Union and calls on Europe’s democrats to wake up before it is too late.
Over 30,000 people joined the 13 th annual walk against breast cancer in Prague on Sunday. The walk is to raise funds for research and increase awareness of the disease which kills 1,600 Czech women every year. One in eight Czech women develop breast cancer at some stage in their lives and doctors annually diagnose 6,000 cases. The Prague walks against breast cancer have a number of celebrity ambassadors and attract an increasing number of participants every year. They have so far raised 76 million crowns.
Czech Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek will propose that the Czech Republic renew its lease on 14 Swedish fighter jets beyond 2015. The minister said on Saturday he would present the government with the proposal next week and expected to see it approved. The new contract with Stockholm on the renewed lease of supersonic JAS-39 Gripen combat jets could be inked at the end of the year or in early 2014 by the new government. According to the minister the new contract will be a better deal for the Czech Republic and would be valid for a period longer than 10 years. The Czech army paid nearly 20 billion crowns (780 million euros, 1 billion US dollars) to lease the Gripens for a decade starting 2005.
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