The police are investigating explosions at an ammunitions depot in eastern Moravia last week as a case of wanton endangerment. The leader of a police pyrotechnics team which has been examining the site at the village of Vrbětice said on Tuesday that the blasts were very unlikely to have occurred accidentally. Two people were killed when a munitions store blew up in mid-October. The situation seemed to have calmed before more explosions began at an adjacent depot last Thursday. Locals have been critical of the handling of the situation and it has become a political matter.
A breakfast meeting between Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and his French counterpart Manuel Valls at the French Embassy in Prague on Tuesday morning recalled a famous meeting between French President Francois Mitterand and members of Czechoslovakia’s dissident movement at the embassy 26 years ago. The first meeting in 1988 between President Mitterand and dissidents such as the late Václav Havel (who later became president), Václav Malý and others, effectively recognized the role and importance of the dissident movement less than a year before communist regimes began to fall across Eastern Europe. Two former dissidents – Karel Srp and Petr Uhl – were present at the meeting on Tuesday.
The editing out of a critical reference to businessman Zdeněk Bakala from a Czech Television news report may have been connected to the fact Mr. Bakala accompanied the prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, on a trip to the US, according to the Office of the President. President Miloš Zeman’s spokesman, Jiří Ovčáček, made the comment at a news conference on Tuesday. A spokesman for Mr. Bakala described the statement as complete nonsense, while Mr. Sobotka said he had not been accompanied by any entrepreneurs and did not run Czech TV. The station had earlier said the removal of the name from their report had been the mistake of an editor.
The minister of culture, Daniel Herman, has removed protected status from a painting in the possession of the Czech National Gallery, clearing the way for its return to members of the Jewish family that originally owned it. The family had been awarded the 18th century work by Francesco Solimen – which was seized from them by the Nazis – in a restitution hearing; however, its status as belonging to the Czech cultural heritage meant it could not be taken out of the country.
Suspicious parcels were delivered to Prague Castle, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior on Tuesday, the Czech News Agency reported, quoting an informed source. While the Ministry of the Interior and Prague Castle refused to either confirm or deny the report, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said it had received a parcel containing a powdery substance. Parcels containing poison – sent from Sweden and Slovenia – were received by Czech ministries at the end of November, leading to a beefing up of security. Other suspicious packages were found to not contain dangerous materials.
The police in Jeseník, north Moravia have arrested on fraud charges a man who faked his own death. The man, who is 51, is accused of taking a loan of CZK 2 million in 2012 and soon afterwards, unbeknownst to his own family, obtaining a falsified Russian death certificate and organising his own funeral. He then bought various businesses while posing under a made-up name and as his own brother and allegedly carried out fictitious deals between them, creaming off VAT refunds to the tune of CZK 5 million. Police said the case was unique in the Czech Republic.
The average Czech will spend around CZK 5,000 this holiday season, which is around a quarter of the country’s average monthly salary, according to an international survey by ING Bank. One in five of the Czech respondents in the study said that they kept an eye on their spending during the Christmas period and around 40 percent said they saved money in advance of the holiday.
Morphosis by previous winner Boris Carloff is among the nominees for the 2014 Apollo award for best Czech pop album of the year. Analogous to the Mercury Prize in the UK, the award is voted on by leading music critics and was first presented in 2011. The other nominees are Adrian T. Bell (for Different World), Lenka Dusilová and Baromantika (V hodině smrti), Dva (Nipomo), Kieslowski (Mezi lopatky), Skleník (Champagne Cork Pop) and Zrní (Následuj kojota). The winner – who gets CZK 60,000 and a statuette designed by Maxim Velčovský – will be announced on February 5.
Forty-two-year-old Czech hockey legend Jaromír Jágr – the most productive European player in NHL history – marked a new milestone on Monday night, playing in his 1,500th NHL game. The forward right-wing, who plays for the New Jersey Devils, joined 15 other players before him who reached that mark. On Monday, Jágr scored a tying goal against Carolina and assisted on the winner scored by Adam Henrique.