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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.