President Miloš Zeman awarded Czech state decorations to 33 personalities on the occasion of Czechoslovakia Independence Day. The recipients include Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved Jewish children during the Holocaust, former UK leader Winston Churchill, the late Russian dissident Natalya Gorbanevskaya, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, five Czech soldiers killed in Afghanistan, and others. In his remarks, the president emphasised the role of the individual in crucial moments of history. Several Czech public figures did not attend the ceremony at Prague Castle in solidarity with two university rectors shunned by Mr Zeman over past disputes.
Two Czechs have repeated the “Race the Tube” stunt, racing an underground train in Prague metro last week, the news website lidovky.cz reports. The two youths, who call themselves Blackrunners, placed a video on line showing them get off the train at the Hůrka metro station and getting on the same train at the next stop, covering the distance of 750 metres in two minutes and seven seconds. This was the second attempt inspired by the original stunt in London; another group tried to race the train in the same location two weeks ago but failed.
More than half of the Czech Republic’s industrial sector is controlled by foreign companies, according to the Czech Statistics Office. In 2012, the revenues of foreign-owned Czech-based industrial companies reached over three trillion crowns which represented nearly 59 percent of all industrial companies. Added value, created by these firms, reached 501 billion crowns, which was half of the total value. Most Czech-based industrial companies are controlled by owners from other EU countries, mainly Germany, followed by the US while Russian firms only own few industrial firms based in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Ministry of Regional Development has earmarked 621 million crowns, or some 28.5 million US dollars, for the renovation of historical landmarks, buildings and other monuments, a spokeswoman for the ministry said. The objects to receive funding include Brno’s Špilberk castle, the Velehrad monastery, a burger’s house in Třeboň, and others. The funds, most of which proceed from the EU, will have to be allocated by the end of next year, the ministry said.
President Miloš Zeman has returned from his official visit to China on board of a corporate jet owned by the PPF group. A daughter company of the financial firm, Home Credit, is a major loans provider, and has operations in China and other countries in southeast Asia. A spokesman for the president said Mr Zeman opted for flying back on the jet to save time; the trip on the Czech Air Force aircraft that brought him to China would be two hours longer. Czech multibillionaire Petr Kellner, who controls the PPF group, also participated in Monday’s meeting between the Czech and Chinese presidents, a spokesman for the group said.
The Czech Republic commemorates the 96th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia, a national holiday, on Tuesday. Several events are being held to mark the occasion, including a ceremony at the National Memorial at Prague’s Vítkov Hill, and the presentation of state honours by President Miloš Zeman at Prague Castle. The expected recipients include Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved hundreds of Jewish children on the eve of WWII, and Catholic priest Josef Toufar who was tortured to death by Communist investigators in 1950.
The former and present rectors of Prague’s prestigious Charles University have declined an invitation from the president to attend a ceremony at Prague Castle on the occasion of Czechoslovak Independence Day on October 28, the country’s most important public holiday. Charles University rector Tomáš Zíma and his predecessor, newly-elected senator Václav Hampl have refused to attend the ceremony in a show of solidarity with two rectors who failed to receive invitations to the event for the second year running now over past disagreements with the president. The board of the Council of Higher Education Institutions has criticized the head of state for breaking with centuries-old tradition and his "unwillingness to rise above petty disputes". The president has defended his right to decide on the guest list for this prestigious ceremony.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Monday welcomed the outcome of elections in Ukraine, saying that they would enable the formation of a strong, legitimate government in Ukraine, the country’s political stabilization and its future democratic development. The Czech Republic is ready to cooperate closely with Ukraine’s new leaders, to assist the country’s reconstruction and gradual accession to the EU, Mr. Sobotka said. He added that the election result should now prompt Russia to sit down to the negotiating table with Ukraine’s new leaders and resolve the conflict by diplomatic means.
Social services providers are to get more money from the state next year. Responding to an urgent request from the Labour Ministry the government on Monday earmarked an addition 335 million crowns for organizations providing services for elderly and disabled people. At present social services are provided by some 2,600 organizations, of which more than half are non-profit. Without the additional funds services for close to 15,000 clients would have had to be scrapped due to a lack of funds.
Police are investigating a case of attempted blackmail of the state by unknown culprits who are threatening to spread the Ebola virus in public places if they do not receive one million euros. According to commercial TV Nova the money is to be paid in the digital currency bitcoin and sent to three different electronic addresses. The deadline for the first payment is 9pm on Monday night. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka expressed outrage over the demand at a press conference in Prague, saying that an intensive search was on to find the culprits. The prime minister moved to dispel public concern saying the government was not underestimating the threat. He called on the media not to resort to exaggeration in presenting the story in order to avert panic.