The Czech foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, says all possible action must be taken to prevent the possible breakup of Ukraine. Mr. Zaorálek told Czech Television that the only legitimate force in the country was its parliament. It voted to dismiss President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled the capital Kiev after opposition forces gained the upper hand. Speaking on TV Prima, Mr. Zaorálek said if Ukraine split into a pro-Western part and a part oriented towards Russia it would create a dividing line between individual spheres of influence.
The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, says the rapid calming of the situation in Ukraine is of key importance. In a statement issued via his spokesperson on Sunday, Mr. Zeman said he awaited the formation of a new government and regarded the preservation of the country’s territorial territory as paramount. The Czech head of state’s invitation to Mr. Yanukovych to visit Prague in April now applies to the country’s highest representative, not directly to Mr. Yanukovych himself, the spokesperson said.
Hundreds of Ukrainians living in the Czech Republic held a mass for the victims of the recent killings in their country at the top of Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Sunday. The crowd carried signs reading Stop Yanukovych and heard speeches condemning the actions of his now ousted government. Also on Sunday a concert in support of Ukraine was held on the Prague’s Náměstí Republiky; the event was free but attendees could send financial support by SMS to the NGO People in Need, which is organising aid for the strife-torn state.
Around 200 people in the village of Číhošť in the Vysočina region held a ceremony on Sunday marking the anniversary of the death of local priest Josef Toufar on February 25 1950. Toufar was accused of faking a miracle in the form of a moving cross in his church in late 1949. The Communist secret police forced him into a confession and he died as a consequence of the torture he experienced.
A new exhibition dedicated to Jan Zajíc is set to mark the 45th anniversary of his self-immolation in response to the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led troops and the “normalization” period that followed. Entitled The Story of Jan Zajíc, it will open at Prague’s Carolinum on Monday as part of the Mene Tekel festival, before moving to the town of Šumperk, whose grammar school students put the exhibition together. Aged 19, Zajíc set himself on fire on 25 February 1969 as he felt a similar move by Jan Palach had failed to shake the indifference and apathy of Czechoslovak society.
Burning Bush, Agnieszka Holland’s depiction of the aftermath of the self-immolation of Jan Palach, swept the boards at the Czech Lion film awards in Prague on Saturday night. The movie, originally a TV mini-series, picked up a record 11 prizes, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Zdeněk Tyc’s Like Never Before picked up the two main acting prizes, Clownwise by Viktor Tauš took Best Supporting Actor and Crooks by Sylvie Dymáková was named Best Documentary.
The Czech Republic have drawn the Netherlands, who will be favourites to come first, Turkey, Latvia, Iceland and Kazakhstan in their qualifying group for soccer’s European Championship in France in 2016. The first two teams in each group will reach the competition automatically, as will the best of the third placed teams. The Czechs failed to reach this year’s World Cup but have since acquired a new manager in Pavel Vrba.
ANO have officially approved Pavel Telička as the leader of their candidates for elections to the European Parliament in May. Mr. Telička, a former diplomat and lobbyist, led the Czech negotiating team ahead of the country’s accession to the EU and was a European Commissioner for six months in 2004. In the elections on May 23 and 24, TOP 09’s campaign will be headed by former central bank vice-governor Luděk Niedermayer, sociologist Jan Keller will lead the Social Democrats, Kateřina Konečná will be the face of the Communist Party and Pavel Svoboda will head the Christian Democrats’ ticket.
There has been a relatively low incidence of influenza in the Czech Republic this winter, the country’s chief hygiene officer, Vladimír Valenta, told the Czech News Agency. While 100 people had died of the flu by this time last year, there has been only one such death to date this winter. The country was hit by a major flu epidemic last year and if it experiences one this year it is unlikely to be so serious, Mr. Valenta said. The official pointed out that epidemics came in cycles and did not necessarily occur annually.
Around 200 people gathered on Saturday to mark the 70th anniversary of the shooting down of an American B-24 Liberator plane at Nepomuk near Plzeň. Nine crew members died in the wreckage of the heavy bomber on 22 February 1944. One member, gunner Raymond Noury, miraculously survived and was held as a POW by the Germans until the end of the war; he later twice visited the village and had planned to attend Saturday’s ceremony but died in December.