The Slovak police have confirmed that the white powder sent to the Czech Embassy in Bratislava, Slovakia, was a toxic substance. The envelope was allegedly sent from Sweden. Police president Tibor Gaspar told the media that they were cooperating on the case with the Czech authorities. In recent weeks a number of Czech institutions have received similar envelopes. Two envelopes, sent from Sweden and Slovenia, were found to contain poison, others, such as the one sent to Prague Castle contained a harmless powder. Security has been stepped up at all public institutions in the country.
A two-day summit of central European presidents continues in Prague on Friday with a debate on energy infrastructure, specifically gas pipelines. On Tuesday the heads of state of Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Austria and Slovenia called for the establishment of a European investment fund in support of large infrastructure projects. The first day of the summit was devoted to rail and road links in central Europe. The visiting presidents also attended the opening of an exhibition on the Danube-Odra-Elbe channel project which Czech President Miloš Zeman has long promoted.
Inspections of Czech munitions depots carried out by the Ministry of Interior have uncovered several shortcomings. The inspection follows a crisis at a munitions storage site in Vrbětice, eastern Moravia that was damaged by a powerful blast in mid-October, succeeded by a series of uncontrolled explosions over the next two months. According to Interior Minister Milan Chovanec, none of the shortcomings poses a threat to the people living in the vicinity of the depots. The lower house on Friday held an extraordinary meeting over the recent explosions. The police on Friday announced that its organised crime unit will be also involved in the investigation.
The CIA’s brutal interrogation of people suspected of terrorism is unacceptable, regardless of the circumstances under which it was carried out, Czech Foreign Minister Lubmír Zaorálek told the Czech News Agency through his spokesman on Friday. Mr. Zaorálek made the comment in reaction to a US Senate Intelligence Committee report this week on the brutal practices used by the country’s intelligence services. Some international NGOs say that the Czech Republic has taken part in covert CIA programmes by providing an airport for transfers.
The lower house on Friday approved draft legislation that abolishes the Brdy military zone, an area south-west of Prague. The draft law also reduces the area of other military zones in the Czech Republic. Defence Minister Martin Stropnický said the army did not need such a large area, which was originally designed for some 115,000 soldiers, since troop numbers have dropped to some 21,000. If the bill is approved by the Senate, the Army will release some 42,000 hectares out of the total of 130,000.
The number of Czech inhabitants increased in the three-quarters of 2014 by 16,100 to 10.5 million, according to figures released by the Czech Statistics Office on Friday. The rise is attributed mainly to immigration, but also to an increasing number of births. Nearly 83,000 children were born in the country during the first nine months of this year while over 77,000 people died over the same period.
The sales of spirits in the Czech Republic have gone up, reaching the level preceding a methanol crisis in 2012, during which 47 Czechs died after drinking poisonous illegally produced spirits. The rise of liquor sales is attributed mainly to the curbing of the illegal alcohol market. According to the head of Czech liquor producer Stock, Czechs are still wary of consuming hard alcohol and the figures are markedly lower than in the years 2008 and 2009. The sales of hard alcohol for 2013 reached 20 million litres, which is 10 percent less than in 2011.
The Czech authorities have confirmed earlier reports of the death of a British national who went missing during a stag weekend in the Czech capital on November 15. Karl Law, 34, disappeared on November 15 during a visit to Prague with 12 others; his body was recovered from the Vltava River last Sunday. His identity has alreday been confirmed by Great Britain’s Foreign Office.
A new-born girl was placed in a baby-box in Prague on Friday morning at around 9 a.m., making her the 112th child to be left in a baby-box since the network was established in the country in 2005. Doctors said the baby was in a good condition. An abandoned new-born boy was found at the same place just a week ago. There are a total of 63 baby-boxes in different locations around the Czech Republic; 68 girls and 44 boys have been left in them in the last nine years.
The Czech State Opera on Friday hosts the world premiere of the opera Nová Země or New Earth, which was written by Czech composer Alois Hába in 1936. The opera was officially banned by the Czechoslovak Ministry of Education as it justified the violent collectivisation in a Soviet village and has never been performed. Friday’s performance will be a one-off event.