Hundreds of people participated in demonstrations in the Czech Republic on Saturday in protest at Russia’s military incursion into Crimea, where a referendum on the Ukrainian region’s future is being held on Sunday. The biggest gathering took place by a statute of TG Masaryk at Prague Castle, where around 150 people condemned Moscow’s actions. Among a number of speakers were pro-European demonstrators from the Ukrainian capital who have received medical treatment in the Czech Republic.
The Czech speed skater Martina Sáblíková ended her season on Saturday with fourth place in the 3000m in Heerenveen in the Netherlands, a result that gave her an eighth overall victory in her sport’s long-distance World Cup. Sáblíková will not take part in next week’s World Championships, also in Heerenveen, saying she is exhausted after the Winter Olympics in Sochi, where she picked up silver in the 3000m and gold in the 5000m to take her tally of Olympic medals to five.
The leadership of the Social Democrats plans to put changes to how the party is run to a referendum of members by June, the prime minister and party chairman Bohuslav Sobotka said on Saturday. One issue that will be put to the vote is whether to introduce a system of primaries so that the establishment of lists of electoral candidates is no longer in the hands of local party bosses, he said after the Social Democrats’ first ever conference specifically dedicated to drawing up reforms. Mr. Sobotka also told reporters the party wished to become more attractive to specialists in various fields in a bid to boost their appeal.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has rejected a call from three former ministers for the Czech Republic to impose sanctions on Russia until it withdraws its troops from Ukraine’s Crimea region. The demand was made by Martin Bursík, Michael Kocáb and Luboš Dobrovský, all of whom served in right-wing governments. Mr. Sobotka said the current Czech cabinet would not under any circumstances impose unilateral sanctions. However, he and his colleagues were prepared to back a joint EU position on the matter, he said. Mr. Sobotka added that the Czech Republic had significant links with the Russian market and blanket sanctions would threaten jobs.
Gale warnings have been issued for almost the entire Czech Republic on Sunday. Winds of up to 90km an hour are expected between 3 AM and 8 PM, with wind speeds of up to 108km an hour likely in mountainous areas, the Czech Hyrdo-Meteorological Institute said on Saturday. Motorists have been warned to exercise caution on the country’s roads.
Police in the Spanish city of Bilbao have arrested a 53-year-old Czech man who they say was carrying 670 grammes of cocaine in his luggage. A Spanish news site said the man, who had arrived this week from Sao Paulo in Brazil, had attempted to hide the drug in four shampoo bottles. Police said the high-quality cocaine was probably destined for sale in Madrid. Spain is among the countries with the highest number of Czech citizens in its prisons; at the end of 2010 there were 102.
A 14th century “bone church” by the Central Bohemian town of Kutná Hora is due to undergo extensive renovation, according to an official from the local parish of Sedlec. The first phase of the renovation, focusing on the roof of the medieval ossuary, will begin in July and last about a year and a half. In a later phase, its four pyramids formed of the bones of 40,000 people who died in the plague and the Hussite wars will be reinforced.
The Czech government has strongly condemned the recent wave of rocket attacks carried out by militant organizations in the Gaza Strip. The region has seen three days of escalated violence despite an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. A statement published by the Czech Foreign Ministry on Friday says the Czech Republic supports the ongoing peace negotiations in the Middle East and the diplomatic efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry. We are convinced that only direct negotiations can lead to a solution which would secure long-term peace and stability for both nations, the statement says.
An unknown protester has "renamed" several streets in Prague in reaction to the Russian invasion of Crimea, the CTK news agency reports. Street signs such as Ukraine, Crimea, Sevastopol, the Black Sea, or Estonia were plastered with red stickers bearing the inscription "Russian?" probably in order to indicate where Russia may focus its attention in the future. Several days ago someone similarly changed the name of a tram stop from "Crimea Street" to "Russia Street."
A bus carrying a large group of school children to a sports event crashed near the west Bohemian town of Plzen around midday on Friday. Ten of the children suffered light injuries, mostly bumps and bruises and were taken to hospital for a check-up. According to police sources the accident happened when the bus driver drove too close to the side of the road to give an oncoming truck more space and overturned into a ditch. A Breathalyzer test proved negative.