Czech President Miloš Zeman has expressed opposition to Russia intervening
in Ukraine; in a statement issued through his spokesman on Saturday, the
president suggested military intervention would create a gulf that would
take more than a generation to bridge. Mr Zeman was reacting to rising
tensions in Crimea, where Russian forces are stationed or being boosted. He
made clear he could draw on concrete experience, the invasion of former
Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led troops in 1968. On Saturday, President
Vladimir Putin requested - and received - approval from Russia's upper
house to use troops on the peninsula until the 'normalisation' of
the political situation in Ukraine. Mr Putin claimed that such a move was
to protect the Russian-speaking population. Ukraine's new leadership
has called Russia's behaviour an attempt to provoke an armed conflict.
The Czech Foreign Ministry reacted on Saturday by saying that Ukraine's territorial integrity as well as sovereignty needed to remain untouched and intact. The foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, is to meet with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka to discuss developments on Monday.
The condition of a number of Ukrainian nationals, injured in recent
anti-government demonstrations in Kiev, has improved somewhat, according to
a spokesman. In all, 27 patients are being treated in Czech hospitals. Some
of the demonstrators – who came out against now deposed president Viktor
Yanukovich – had suffered broken shins, or facial injuries such as a
cracked eye socket.
Back in Ukraine, tensions are continuing to rise over the peninsula of Crimea and involvement by Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday asked his country’s upper house to approve the use of troops in Ukraine, allegedly to protect the lives of Russian citizens there. A day earlier, US President Barack Obama warned Russia not to interfere militarily in Ukraine.
Thousands of well-wishers and fans turned out in Žďár nad Sázavou on Saturday to greet champion Martina Sáblíková. The Olympian, who won one gold and one silver at the Winter Olympics in Sochi was greeted with flowers and other gifts, including a cake in the shape of the winners’ podium. At the Winter Games, Sáblíková defended her gold from Vancouver in the 5,000 metres – her favourite competition.
One of the passengers in a modified Subaru was killed and two others seriously injured when the driver lost control of the vehicle near Pardubice on Saturday and crashed. Altogether, four people were in the car. In the crash, the vehicle sped off the road in a turn and hit a fence and the side of a family home. Hydraulic equipment was needed to rescue injured passengers from the car.
For health reasons, Bishop Jiří Paďour is stepping down as the head of the diocese in České Budějovice. The 70-year-old bishop tendered his resignation to Pope Francis last year. The Vatican confirmed on Saturday the move had been accepted. Bishop Paďour headed the diocese since 2002; he was a dissident under the former communist regime after refusing to collaborate with the StB, the secret police, in 1979.
The regional court in Plzeň has ordered a 47-year-old suspect to be remanded in custody in connection with a murder which took place two decades ago. Criminal investigators in Karlovy Vary arrested the man on Friday – ten days before the case would have come under the statute of limitations. The man is suspected of killing a 66-year-old in 1994 and then cementing his remains in the basement of a building in Marianské Lázně.
A 58-year-old man died in hospital on Friday, succumbing to methanol poisoning, the Czech News Agency reports. The man, from Moravec na Ždársku, fell gravely ill after drinking tainted liquor roughly a week ago. The police have charged a 37-year-old suspect in connection with the death, finding bottles of questionable alcohol in his home. Two years ago, the Czech Republic saw an outbreak of methanol poisoning after a deadly mix of bootleg alcohol illegally made it onto the market - more than 50 people lost their lives. Police suspect that some 4,000 litres are unaccounted for. If found guilty, the suspect could face up to eight years in jail.
The foreign minister of Ukraine’s newly-formed government, Andriy Deshchytsya, has said his country wants and association agreement with the EU and stabile relations with Russia. Following a meeting with the Visegrad goup foreign ministers in Kiev on Friday, Mr. Deshchytsya said the new Ukrainian government was prepared to open talks with Russia on stabilizing bilateral relations and in particular finding a peaceful solution to the unraveling crisis in Crimea. The representatives of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland assured Kiev they would provide whatever assistance was within their means. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said that in view of the situation in Crimea the most pressing issue now was to maintain the unity of the country. Meanwhile, the EU on Friday reiterated its offer of a free-trade pact with Ukraine, saying the country would see the economic benefits within weeks of signing the agreement.
The Czech government wants to join the criminal prosecution in the ongoing case involving the company Promopro which won a controversial public order for the supply of audio-visual equipment during the Czech EU presidency in 2009. The state is claiming 338 million crowns in damages, the amount by which the order was allegedly overpriced. The suspects have been charged with scheming in a public tender and auction, abuse of power and breach of trust. Alexander Vondra, who was responsible for the preparation of the Czech EU presidency and who was defence minister in 2010-2012, has not been charged.