President Miloš Zeman has asked Interior Minister Milan Chovanec to comply with the application of 40 families of Volhyn Czechs in Ukraine to be repatriated to the Czech Republic. The group of ethnic Czech families applied in the spring in the face of developments in Ukraine but was turned down by the Czech Foreign Ministry which contended that Ukraine would be able to ensure their security and rights. The group also wrote to the president asking for help. The Volhyn Czechs expressed the fear not of reprisals by the Ukrainian majority but of a war between Ukraine and Russia. The Czech interior minister said he would look into the matter and made clear he was not opposed if there were no legal barriers. He said, however, he wanted to know the position of the Foreign Ministry first.
Police have charged a 25-year old man with the murder and rape of a nine-year old girl in Klášterec nad Ohří. The child failed to return home from school earlier this week and her body was found a day later roughly a kilometre from her home. Police have confirmed that the accused is related to the girls’ family. If convicted he would face 20 years in prison, or even a life sentence. The murder has shocked the town and the country; local residents have been laying flowers and stuffed toys and candles at the child’s school. A meeting between school administrators, police and town representatives led to security at local schools being heightened by police patrols.
The Czech National Gallery is returning some of its most valuable objects to the Catholic Church in line with the church restitution law. Among those is a set of unique panel paintings by Vyšebrod Altar Masters from the 14th century and two Baroque paintings by Peter Paul Rubens. The new head of the National Gallery Jiřá Fajt says visitors will still be able to see the pictures, since the gallery signed a contract on their free loan. According to Mr Fajt the Church has so far demanded 544 objects on the basis of the church property deal.
Czech environmental activists on Friday published a list of localities in the Šumava national park that would be endangered in the event of a controversial bill on the park’s management coming into law. The lower house of Parliament is set to discuss the bill tabled by a group of Senators and approved by the upper chamber next week. Environmental groups have warned that the planned change places developers first and could lead to damage to valuable wildlife. Some 42 thousand people have signed a petition against the bill.
The CEITEC Biotechnological Institute at Masaryk University in Brno opened its new state-of-the-art centre on Friday. The event was attended by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. CEITEC is a scientific centre for basic and applied research in the fields of life sciences, advanced materials and technologies. The research institute was established in 2011 with the aim to attract Czech scientists working abroad to return to the Czech Republic. Another four buildings are to be built on the premises of the research centre next year. The overall cost will amount to 5.2 billion crowns, with 4.4 billion being funded by the European Union.
The US online retailer Amazon officially launched the construction of its distribution centre in Dobrovíz near Prague on Friday. The centre, which should be completed by the end of June 2015, will create some 2,000 jobs. Amazon was originally also planning to build another distribution centre in a Brno industrial zone, but the plans have been rejected by Brno City Hall over zoning issues. The US Internet giant is now looking for other locality in Central and Eastern Europe.
Two drug smugglers from the Czech Republic have been arrested at Lima international airport. The Czechs allegedly had three kilograms of cocaine in their possession, according to the website Tíseň.tv. One of the detained Czechs is Jiří Večeřa, a member of the so-called Berdych gang - the largest organized crime ring in the Czech Republic with links to former elite police officers and is said to have involved dozens of prisoners in jailhouses around the country.
Weather forecasters have warned that flooding may occur in several regions of the country as heavy rain continues to swell smaller rivers. A third degree flood alert was called on Friday afternoon for the river Velička in South Moravia. Lower-level flood alerts have also been called for the Karlovy Vary, Plzeň and Ústí nad Labem regions and some regions of Moravia. Up to 50 mm of precipitations have been registered overnight in some parts of the Czech Republic. More rain is expected over the next 48 hours.
The defending Davis Cup champions the Czech Republic are losing 0:2 to France after the first day of the semi-final. Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych was defeated by Richard Gasquet 3:3, 2:6, 3:6. In the second singles encounter, Lukáš Rosol lost to Jo-Wilfred Tsonga 6:2, 6:2, 6:3.
Petr Čech’s future with the London club Chelsea looks even more uncertain after the club revealed on Thursday it had signed a five-year contract with Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois. Courtois has taken over as the number 1 goalkeeper since the start of the new season. The deal has renewed speculation that Čech will head for a new club in January, when the next trade window opens. The 32-year old Čech has two years left on his existing contract. He was the club’s top goalie for 10 years, helping Chelsea win the 2012 Champions League.