The Czech Foreign Ministry on Friday called on Russia to immediately withdraw its troops from Ukraine, to stop artillery attacks from Russian territory and to halt deliveries of military equipment to pro-Russian rebels. The ministry also called for independent monitoring of the border between Ukraine and Russia to be allowed. The ministry said the operation of Russian armed forces in eastern and southeastern Ukraine was a serious threat to peace and stability in Europe. It stressed that steps taken by Russia went against international law and also undermined statements that President Vladimir Putin made at a recent summit in Minsk where he said he sought a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has expressed serious concern with regard to the deepening crisis in Ukraine. In a written statement published by the Office of the Government Mr. Sobotka said that if Kiev’s claim of a Russian invasion into Eastern Ukraine were proved true it would be another flagrant violation of international law by Moscow. Prime Minister Sobotka said he welcomed the fact that a special meeting of the European Council, scheduled for Saturday, would enable EU leaders to coordinate their stands and agree on an adequate response.
Euro MPs for TOP 09 Luděk Niedermayer and Jaromír Štětina, along with former ministers for human rights and the environment, Michal Kocab and Martin Bursík, have called on the Czech Republic to block visas for Russian citizens supporting the Putin regime. In a written statement, the four appealed to the Czech government to take a principled stand on Russia in light of the most recent developments in Ukraine, referring to a new invasion by Russian forces, reported on Thursday. Along with visa bans, the four made clear that, in their view, the Czech government needed to offer Ukraine material and military help. Social Democrat Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, also reacting to developments in Ukraine, told news website iDnes that the Czech Republic would back a greater NATO military presence at the alliance’s eastern borders.
A group of seven Czech soldiers departed for Turkey on Friday to take part in Operation Active Fence, NATO’s integrated anti-missile defence system in place in Turkey as protection against Syrian missiles. The latest departure of Czech military personnel to the region, where they also served in the first half of last year, was confirmed by the spokeswoman for the General Staff of the Czech Army on Friday. Czech personnel are serving in a number of other international missions, including in Afghanistan and Mali.
The Czech Republic is considering sending a military contingent to the Golan Heights this year, Defence Minister Martin Stropnický told reporters on Friday. There may be room for new troops in the mission there in October as the Philippine military is considering withdrawing its personnel. Czech President Miloš Zeman has long supported the idea of deploying Czech soldiers to the Golan Heights. The defence minister said he wanted to discuss the matter with the president and indicated he was not sure whether the Czech Republic would be able to prepare the contingent at such short notice. The deployment of troops would have to be approved by the government. According to the Czech News Agency, the military has a so far taken a reserved stance towards the plan, in part for financial reasons.
President Zeman’s chancellor, Vratislav Mynář, will not be accompanying the Czech head of state to the NATO summit in Great Britain next week, the ctk news agency reports. The chancellor said he had another important appointment on his agenda, but there has been speculation that he would not be able to attend the NATO meeting due to the fact that he lacks security clearance. The fact that someone so close to the head of state has not received security clearance has come under fire from many sides, but President Zeman has so far tolerated the situation on the chancellor’s assurance that he requested security clearance last December and the National Security Office had so far failed to process his request.
The country’s ombudswoman, Anna Šabatová and her deputy, Stanislav Křeček, have expressed differing opinions in the case of two Muslim nursing school students last year who were banned from wearing the hijab headscarf in the classroom. The ombudswoman this week described the move as discriminatory. The school defended the ban on the grounds that any headwear in class was “antisocial”. The school’s principal contended the ban had not prevented the students, who since left the school, from practicing their religion. Deputy ombudsman Křeček said he viewed the school as within its rights to issue a ban, but he stressed that was his personal opinion as an independent lawyer. The school in question, meanwhile, has altered its policy, allowing the principal to make exceptions for religious students.
Police in the eastern city of Ostrava arrested two suspects, a 42-year-old man and 35-year-old female partner, believed to have sold five kilograms of heroin for more than 1.4 million crowns. The two are well-known to police and both have criminal records. They reportedly bought the drugs in Prague before reselling them in Ostrava and surrounding areas. Police have not ruled out additional arrests in connection with the case.
Czech actor Petr Šporcl, a member of the South Bohemian Theatre in České Budějovice has died at the age of 72 following a long illness. The actor, the father of well-known violinist Pavel Šporcl, performed over a hundred roles over his theatre career including Horatio in Hamlet and Mitch in A Streetcar named Desire.
Czech football league champions Sparta Prague reached the group stage of the Europa League on Thursday, with a 3:1 second-leg win over Zwolle – a score of 4:2 on aggregate. Sparta, the last Czech club in European competition after exits by Plzeň, Liberec and Mladá Boleslav, drew first blood and scored two more to take a commanding 3:0 by the 63rd minute. Zwolle converted a penalty in the 83rd minute to get the consolation goal. In the next round, Sparta will compete in Group I, against Napoli, Slovan Bratislava and Switzerland’s Young Boys.