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Czechs offer 150 personnel for future NATO rapid response force

The Czech Republic will offer 150 personnel along with several helicopters to serve in a newly-planned NATO rapid response force, Czech President Milos Zeman said on Friday at the NATO summit. Several thousand members could form the NATO Rapid Force (NRF), which would be capable of going into action within 48 hours. Other options are also being considered. The Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnický said Prague is also considering other ways of joining the new unit´s operation, mentioning logistics and the country’s specialised anti-chemical unit. The NRF headquarters could be located in in Szczecin, Poland. The new plan is direct reaction by NATO to the Russian annexation of Crimea and alleged military involvement in eastern Ukraine.

Some 300 Czechs may join NATO’s new training mission in Afghanistan

In related news, around 300 Czech soldiers could operate within NATO´s planned new training mission in Afghanistan in 2015, according to the Czech Republic’s head-of-state Miloš Zeman. At the end pf this year, NATO will terminate its long-term ISAF operation, which is to be replaced by Resolute Support, a new non-combat mission. Mr Zeman said the Czechs’ main goal would be to train and instruct the Afghan police and army. The winner of the Afghan presidential election is still not known, which is preventing the necessary agreements from being signed by Kabul, the USA and NATO, opening the door to the mission, according to the Czech News Agency. Both presidential candidates, nevertheless, have indicated that they would sign on. The Afghan armed forces, comprising 350,000 troops, are to take over responsibility for Afghanistan security at the beginning of 2015. NATO plans to provide financial support.

President calls Ukraine conflict civil war

Czech President Miloš Zeman told commercial radio station Frekvence 1 that he considered the conflict in Ukraine a civil war, not a Russian invasion. In an interview which was taped ahead of the NATO summit in Wales this week, the president also said he believed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when he stated there were no Russian soldiers on the ground in Ukraine. The president took a similar tack at the summit itself, drawing criticism on Thursday from the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. The president’s statement, according to the Czech News Agency is at sharp variance with statements made by NATO leaders as well as Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and the country’s defence minister, who have said that some 5,000 Russian soldiers, according to their information, were fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Four people killed, two injured in bridge collapse

A road bridge near the town of Havlíčkův Brod collapsed on Thursday afternoon, killing four people and leaving two others injured. The incident happened on a section of road which is under construction and was closed to traffic. Three Czech and three Slovak road workers were under the bridge when it collapsed. Rescue teams with dogs were immediately dispatched to search the rubble. The sub-contractor of the bridge reconstruction is the Boegl & Krysl company, which also figures in two other cases of collapsed bridges in north Moravia and east Slovakia, that claimed the lives of 12 people in total.

Number of deaths on Czech roads over summer holidays lowest since 1990

One hundred and thirty-three people died in traffic accidents on Czech roads over the course of the summer holidays – three fewer than the same period last year and the lowest since 1990. Over the first eight months, however, the number of road fatalities increased by 21 year-on-year, traffic police chief Tomáš Lerch told journalists on Friday. The number could still change based on ongoing investigations where death may have been related to health problems and the accident itself was secondary.

Oscar-winning art director Karel Černý dies at 92

Czech production designer and art director Karel Černý – who won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction for Amadeus in 1984 – has died at the age of 92. According to his son-in-law Lubomír Nezbeda, Mr Černý died at his home in Tábor. During his career, Karel Černý worked on almost 200 film and TV productions, 15 TV series, and dozens of short films and ads. Besides working with Miloš Forman on Amadeus, he also worked on all of the director’s early films including Black Peter and Loves of a Blonde. Other directors her worked with included Karel Kachyna and Karel Zeman (the children's classic Journey to the Beginning of Time).

Trial of former police officer Vogel to begin next week

Prague’s municipal court will see the start next week of a case against Miroslav Vogel, a former member of the national anti-drug unit, suspected of abuse of power and blackmail as well as other crimes. The former police officer is thought to have covered up criminal activity by then-police informer Petr Ryzák, namely in the production of the illicit drug pervetin. Last year, Mr Vogel came under suspicion in a case involving a total of six members in the Liberec-based gang involved in the production of the street drug.

Senior dies in drink driving accident

A 78-year-old driver behind the wheel of an Opel Corsa died on Thursday in Tabor when her vehicle was struck by another car driven by a local politician under the influence. Police arrested Aleš Lachout after testing and finding proof of alcohol in his blood. The accident took place at around 10 PM. The suspect is likely to be charged with drink driving, negligence resulting in death and for failing to provide first aid. The local branch of the party Mr Lachout was affiliated with has said it will expel him from its ranks.

President says he will not appear again on Moravec show

In an interview for commercial radio station Frekvence 1, President Miloš Zeman has made clear he will, in the future, not appear on Czech TV’s flagship Sunday debate programme hosted by Václav Moravec. The president alleged that Mr Moravec, a seasoned radio and TV journalist, had made a major mistake in last week’s edition. Last Sunday, Mr Moravec interviewed Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka about the government’s civil service legislation. The president has strong reservations towards the draft bill, especially over the inclusion of so-called politically-appointed deputies. Mr Moravec maintained that when Mr Zeman was prime minister from 1998 to 2002 such appointees were the norm as well. The president has denied it.

In the interview for F1’s Pressclub programme, the president said he had given Mr Moravec several "chances" before but that he would no longer appear on the show, saying his predecessor Václav Klaus had taken a similar approach. The team behind the programme at Czech TV, meanwhile, is standing by the show’s content.

Berdych knocked out of US Open

The Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych has been knocked out in the quarter-finals at the US Open. The 28-year old, who had been seeded sixth, lost 2:6, 4:6, 6:7 on Thursday to Marin Cilic of Croatia, who beat Frances Gillet Simon in the previous round. Another Czech Barbora Záhlavová-Strýcová also failed to advance, after she and Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm lost in the doubles to the Russian players Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.