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Office of the President receives envelope with suspicious powder

The Office of the President on Wednesday received an envelope containing a suspicious white powder and a threatening letter addressed to President Miloš Zeman. Police, firemen and explosives experts were called to investigate the suspect delivery. President Zeman is currently on a visit to the Zlín region and was not in residence at the time when the package arrived. Police said tests are now being carried out to establish what the substance is.

Former Human Rights Minister launches petition in support of Ukraine

Former Minister for Human Rights and Minorities, Michael Kocáb, has initiated a petition to distance himself from the attitude of president Miloš Zeman and the government toward the situation in Ukraine. The petition calls on politicians to actively support Ukraine’s sovereignty and to express their disagreement with Russia’s interference into Ukrainian affairs. The petition has been signed by some 1500 people so far, including priest and theologian Tomáš Halík or documentary filmmaker Olga Sommerová.

Czech Airlines laying off one-third of staff

Czech Airlines is planning to lay off 77 pilots, 150 cabin crew and 60 administrative staff, a third of its total workforce. A spokesperson for ČSA said the layoffs were in response to the removal of Airbus A320 planes from its fleet for economic reasons. It will try to find positions for some pilots at other Sky Team airlines. Korean Air bought a 44% stake in ČSA last year after several years of poor results for the Czech national carrier.

Europol targets organized crime across Europe, including CR

The European Police Office (Europol) has arrested more than 1,000 people in what was allegedly the single largest assault on organized crime in Europe. The operations were carried out over nine days in 34 countries, including the Czech Republic. According to Europol director Rob Wainwright, the Operation Archimedes targeted all kinds of crime, ranging from drug trafficking to illegal immigration, tax fraud, counterfeiting and theft, netting large amounts of drugs and saving 30 Romanian children from being trafficked.

Czech soldiers take part in NATO military training in Poland

Soldiers from the Czech Republic are taking part in an international military exercise, Anaconda, at the training grounds in northern Poland, which was launched on Wednesday. The ten-day exercise involves 12,500 soldiers from Poland and eight other NATO allies, including the US and the Baltic states. The operations should examine the readiness of allied forces to react to security threats in light of the military conflict in Ukraine.

Lower house passes amendment to income tax bill

The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday passed an amendment to the income tax bill, raising tax relief for the second child and following children. The amendment also reintroduces relief for working pensioners and reduces it for the self-employed by curbing their automatic write-offs of tax against expenses. The draft bill also reimposes tax on payments to of pensioners who earn more than CZK 840.000 a year from work. The bill will now be discussed by the Senate. If passed and signed by president Miloš Zeman, it will take effect next year.

Lower house passes 10-percent VAT

The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday also passed a draft bill establishing a third level of the value added tax. The 10-percent rate would apply to books, medicine and baby food as of January 2015. The Czech Republic currently has two VAT rates of 21 and 15 percent. The proposal was put forward mainly to benefit pensioners and families with children by lowering the prices of the selected goods.

Sazka joins Eurojackpot lottery

The biggest national betting and lottery firm and paymaster for Czech sport, Sazka, has joined the European lottery Eurojakpot. According to the Czech News Agency, Sazka has already been given permission for the move by the Ministry of Finance. Seventeen countries currently participate in the Eurojackpot lottery, which was launched in 2012. The largest ever recorded win in the Eurojackpot draw amounted to 1.7 billion crowns (approximately 61 million Euros) and went to a Finnish winner.

Sotheby’s to auction Czech avant-garde art

Czech avant-garde art from the Roy and Mary Cullen Collection will be auctioned at Sotheby’s in London during November. The art collection includes paintings by Toyen, Karel Teige and Jindřich Štyrský, which were created in the interwar period. The auction is expected to fetch around 1.7 million Euros (roughly 60 million crowns). Highlights from the Roy and Mary Cullen Collection will be exhibited in Prague at the end of October. A previous auction of Czech avant-garde and modern art at Sotheby’s in 2011 resulted in a record price of 11.1 million pounds, twice as much than the auction house had estimated.

Czech women lose to USA in basketball World Championship warmup in Prague

The Czech women’s basketball team lost 41:76 to the USA in Prague on Tuesday night in a warmup game for the forthcoming World Championship. The Czechs started well but were ultimately no match for the reigning world and Olympic champions. In addition, pivot Petra Kulichová, the Czechs’ top scorer with nine points, suffered an ankle injury in the game, which took place just four days before the World Championship starts in Turkey.