The Czech Republic does not recognize the result of Crimea’s referendum Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka reiterated on Monday, saying the result went against Ukraine’s constitution and against the 1994 treaty guaranteeing Ukraine’s modern borders. The referendum, he stressed, was irregular, not allowing international observers and having taken place under a marked Russian military presence. The result has likewise been rejected by the European Union and the United States, who agreed to impose sanctions. On Monday, the Czech government expressed agreement that part of the EU association agreement be signed with Ukraine by the end of the week.
Former US ambassador to Prague and chairman of the supervisory board at Tatra trucks William Cabaniss testified in court on Monday in the case of former defence minister Martin Barták and arms dealer Michal Smrž charged with corruption in the purchase of Tatra trucks for the Czech army. The prosecution suspects Mr Barták in his capacity as deputy defence minister in 2008 asked the truck maker’s supervisory board head for a five-million dollar bribe. Mr Barták has denied any wrongdoing. In his testimony on Monday, Mr Cabaniss said he did not remember the exact amount asked for (or the currency) but said he found the offer highly inappropriate, suggesting he was completely caught off guard. If convicted, former defence minister Barták faces up to 12 years in prison.
Czech President Miloš Zeman reacted on Monday to Crimea’s referendum, saying the vote contravened Ukraine’s constitution but suggesting the result should lead to the greater autonomy of Crimea, spokesman Jiří Ovčáček said. The spokesman pointed out the president's view on Crimea's autonomy was similar to that of former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger (who oulined his position in a recent Washington Post opinion piece). In the referendum result on Sunday, the vast majority of Crimean voters chose the option to rejoin Russia. The Crimean Parliament on Monday formally declared Crimea’s independence, asking to join the Russian Federation. The US and the European Union have called the referendum illegal and have agreed to impose sanctions against Russia for intervening in Ukraine.
Former Czech police president Martin Červíček began his first day on the job on Monday as the head of the regional police force in Hradec Králové. The force there and in other regions such as Pardubice, south Bohemia and the Czech-Moravian Highlands have all seen broad changes in leadership, according to plans going back several years. Martin Červíček was police president for over a year but was replaced following the return of his predecessor Petr Lessy, after a court threw out charges against him of slander and abuse of office.
Residents were evacuated from an apartment building in the West Bohemian city of Plzeň on Sunday night following a gas explosion, a spokesperson for the local fire service told the Czech News Agency. One person was hospitalised after being injured in the blast, the cause of which is as yet unknown. Local authorities have organised temporary housing for 14 people who were forced to leave their homes and are now awaiting the result of an examination of the building by engineers.
The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, has called for a uniform, calm and consistent response from the European Union to the result of the referendum in Crimea. Speaking in Monday’s edition of the German newspaper Handelsblatt, Mr. Sobotka said Europe should above all not react hysterically to the result of the referendum, in which more than 95% of Crimean voters were reported to have backed joining Russia. The Czech leader emphasised that his country and its European partners regarded the vote as unlawful and in contravention of Ukraine’s constitution; he said the only solution could be if Russia and Ukraine sat down at the negotiating table.
The Czech priest and academic Tomáš Halík says he will put most of the CZK 36 million he received this week with Templeton Prize into initiatives involved in interfaith dialogue and dialogue between believers and atheists. His involvement in such discourse was one reason that he received the religious award. Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Monsignor Halík said he had a concrete project in mind to donate the money to. He will also give some of the monetary award to charity. Previous winners of the Templeton Prize include the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Strong winds have caused disruptions around the Czech Republic, with the North Bohemia region particularly badly hit. Gales have knocked down trees in several places, interrupting service on a number of railway lines. Ski resorts have also been affected, with the final day of the Ski Flying World Championships in Harrachov having to be abandoned. Forecasters said the winds should ease by around 8PM on Sunday.
Former prime minister and Civic Democrats chairman Petr Nečas says that
the head of the police’s organised crime unit, Robert Šlachta, was about
to be sacked shortly before he ordered an operation that included a raid on
the office of the government and precipitated Mr. Nečas’s downfall. He
told the weekly Euro that Mr. Šlachta was facing the axe for failing to
combat the trade in illegally produced alcohol. Mr. Nečas said the
organised crime unit had become chiefly interested in hounding politicians.
For his part, Mr. Šlachta describes Mr. Nečas’s comments as completely
Last June members of the unit arrested on bribe-taking charges three former Civic Democrat MPs who had received lucrative posts at semi-state enterprises after agreeing not to bring down Mr. Nečas’s government. They have since been exonerated but Mr. Nečas himself is still facing bribery charges, as are his former chief aide and current spouse Jana Nagyová and a number of others.
Miroslav Kalousek of the opposition TOP 09 says the West’s hitherto policy of good will towards Russia had definitively failed following the latter’s military intervention in Ukraine’s Crimea region. Speaking on a TV debate show on Sunday, the former finance minister said that the Czech Republic ought to push for the toughest possible policy toward Russia within the framework of the European Union and NATO. The country should act in concert against the “aggressor” with the other Visegrad Four states, which fall within Russia’s imperial interests, Mr. Kalousek said.