Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnický paid an unannounced visit to Czech troops in Afghanistan over the weekend, bringing them Christmas gifts and letters from their families. The Czech defense minister also met for talks with Afghan top officials to discuss the security situation in the country amidst intensified attacks by Taliban radicals. There are currently 285 Czech soldiers serving in the country within NATO’s ISAF mission. Around 300 Czech soldiers are expected to take part in Resolute Support NATO´s non-combat, training mission in 2015.
Europe has a moral duty to accept refugees from the Middle East and Africa despite the possible risks involved, Czech priest and theologian Tomáš Halík said in a debate on Czech Television on Sunday. Mr. Halík said the Czech Republic should at least admit injured Syrian children for treatment as a symbolic gesture. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said in Brussels a week ago that the Czech Republic was not ready to take in thousands of Syrian refugees for security and technical reasons and that it would not agree with the possible introduction of obligatory quotas for their acceptance by the EU member states. He did not rule out that the country could take in a small number of refugees, for instance Syrian children in need of medical treatment.
Police and pyrotechnics experts are investigating the source of two more explosions heard overnight at the Vrbetice munitions depot in Moravia. The fact that more blasts have been taking place means that the process of cleaning up the grounds in the wake of October’s devastating explosion will have to be further delayed. Meanwhile soldiers have been stepping up security around the site and setting up a logistics base which will allow them to operate on the grounds long-term. The cleaning-up process and the transfer of munition untouched by the massive explosion in October is expected to take months.
Within a six months long weapons amnesty Czechs have handed in 3,154 weapons and over 370, 000 pieces of ammunition, a spokeswoman for the Czech Police Presidium said on Sunday. The amnesty was declared on July 1st and will expire at the end of the year. Among the weapons handed in are guns used in the Second World War. The last such amnesty took place five years ago, when people handed in close to 8,000 weapons.
New train timetables go into effect as of Sunday December 14th. Czech Railways have also made a number of minor changes to established routes. Czech Railways is increasing the price of tickets by one percent, on routes under 50 kms it remains the same. Its rivals Leo Express and RegioJet have not upped their prices.
Around thirty members of the Czech Association of Czech Hardy Men and Women took their annual Polar Bear dive into the Vltava River this weekend, while admitting five new members. The dive usually takes place in sub-zero temperatures, but this year the temperature of the water was 5 degrees Celsius, the temperature of the air 6 degrees. At the traditional christening ceremony of new members the head of the association, Vladimír Komárek, had to add ice to a jug of river water to give the new members a taste of the real thing. Another dive is expected around New Year’s Eve but according to meteorologists temperatures should remain above zero until mid-January.
The Czech men’s floorball team on Sunday won the bronze at the World Floorball Championships in Goteborg, Sweden, beating the Swiss team 4:3. It is the teams’ third medal at a world event. In 2004 they bagged the silver and in 2004 the bronze before sliding to seventh place at the 2013 championships in Zurich.