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Czech president attends freedom celebrations in Leipzig

President Miloš Zeman is attending freedom celebrations in Leipzig marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of communism.The celebrations opened on October 9th on the day when, 25 years ago, 70,000 people gathered on Leipzig square for a peaceful demonstration against the communist regime in then East Germany. The event sparked similar protests in towns around the country that ended in the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th. The freedom celebrations attended by an estimated 150,000 people, including heads of state from the former Eastern block and VIP guests from around the world, will include a prayer for peace and a festival of lights highlighting a ring-road around the historical town center.

President Zeman compres situation in Ukraine to Spanish Civil War

Speaking to journalists in Leipzig on Thursday, President Zeman compared the situation in Ukraine to the Spanish Civil War. In neither of these cases can we talk about a foreign aggression, the president said. In the Spanish Civil War Spaniards fought against Spaniards and you had intervention from Russia and France on the one hand and Germany and Italy on the other, but no one labelled it a foreign aggression, Mr. Zeman noted. The Czech president said he had discussed the situation in Ukraine with the former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and the former German foreign minister Hans Dietrich Genscher and they all agreed that what was happening in Ukraine was essentially a civil war. The president said Ukraine needed democratic elections in order to move forward.

Finance Ministry unveils amendment to gambling law

The Finance Ministry has unveiled the details of an amendment to the gambling law. The draft bill aims to reduce gambling outlets around the country and severely tighten regulations governing the business. Most significantly it would ban slot machines in restaurants and at petrol stations frequented by pathological gamblers and introduce a central register of gamblers which would deny certain people, for instance addicts undergoing treatment, access to gambling bars and casinos. The bill sets a limit of one gambling bar per 1,000 inhabitants and would only allow casinos in towns of 40,000 or more inhabitants. If approved it would reduce the number of gambling bars and casinos in Prague, now at around 1,000, by a half.

Sir Nicolas Winton to accept the Order of the White Lion in person

Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved the lives of 669 children by bringing them out of German-occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War, is to come to Prague at the end of October to receive the Order of the White Lion, the Czech Republic’s highest state distinction. The award is to be presented to him by the President Miloš Zeman on the occasion of the country’s public holiday October 28th. President Zeman told journalists on Thursday that Sir Nicolas Winton had accepted the invitation and was looking forward to the visit. Nicolas Winton organized train transports of Jewish children from Czechoslovakia to Britain in 1939, securing departure permits from the German authorities, entry permits from Britain and their admission to British families. The children would otherwise have ended up in concentration camps and gas chambers. Czech top officials have repeatedly nominated Sir Nicholas Winton for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Adverse weather delays transfer of Gripen fighter jets to Iceland

Adverse weather conditions delayed the planned flight of five of Gripen fighter jets to Iceland scheduled for Thursday morning, according to Czech military sources. The jets and a number of soldiers were scheduled to fly to Iceland within a joint military operation to protect Iceland's airspace. The main part of the 75 member Czech contingent is already there. The Czech army was originally to protect Iceland’s airspace for five weeks but agreed to extend it to seven at NATO’s request.

President Zeman to visit China

President Milos Zeman is to pay a state visit to China from October 23 -27th, the Office of the President said in a statement to the press on Thursday. In addition to a series of talks with top officials in Beijing, the Czech president will also visit the provinces. Economic issues are expected to dominate the agenda. The two countries are working to expand business ties after a reset of relations earlier this year. The Chinese Investment Form held at Prague Castle in August was the biggest event of its kind, attended by close to a thousand delegates. On his visit to China the Czech president will be accompanied by a delegation of Czech business leaders.

Six people charges with large-scale tax evasion

The anti-corruption police have charged six people with large-scale tax-evasion and fraud following a crack-down on a group of people involved in the sale of unlicensed alcohol and cigarettes. The tax-fraud involved fictitious sales to Slovakia, Poland and Hungary which resulted in losses of around 253 million crowns to state coffers. If convicted the suspects could face up to ten years in prison.

President vetoes legislation that would discontinue forest kindergartens

President Miloš Zeman has vetoed a bill that would discontinue the existence of outdoor nurseries known as forest kindergartens, his office said in a statement. The president said the legislation would limit the choice of child care alternatives, thus undermining beneficial civic activities. The so-called Children Groups Act was to provide legal basis for various child care groups created due to lack of places in public kindergartens, requiring them to register and meet comprehensive hygiene rules which would in effect lead to the closure of 120 forest kindergartens across the country. Some 11,000 people signed a petition calling on lawmakers to amend the bill in order to allow these facilities to exist.

Police investigating tragic accident

Police are investigating a tragic accident in the town of Vsetin where a twelve year old boy wanted to try driving the family car and killed a two-year-old child playing on the pavement nearby. The boy took the keys to the car without is parent’s knowledge, started the engine and unwittingly sent the car into reverse motion over the pavement where the two-year-old boy was playing. The child died of internal injuries minutes after. It is not clear where the boy got the keys or why the two-year-old was unattended.

Czech consumer prices accelerated growth in September

Czech consumer prices grew annually by 0.7 percent in September, after an 0.6.percent annual growth registered in August, according to figures released by the Czech Statistics Office on Thursday. Compared to the previous month, prices decreased by 0.5 percent in September. Analysts city a surge in food and soft drink prices as the main factor behind the growth.