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Ex-military intelligence chief denies spying for former prime ministerial aide

The former director of the Czech Republic’s military intelligence service, Milan Kovanda, told a Prague court on Tuesday that he had not spied on behalf of a one-time prime ministerial aide. Mr. Kovanda is accused along with two other military intelligence officers of monitoring the then wife of Prime Minister Petr Necaš on the orders of aide Jana Nagyová, who is now married to Mr. Necaš. The officers and the erstwhile Ms. Nagyová face up to five years in jail if found guilty of abuse of office. The arrest of the latter preceded the fall of Mr. Necaš’s government in 2013. The case is being heard behind closed doors at the Prague 1 District Court.

Czech experts on Ukraine criticise Zeman comments on country’s history

A group of Czech historians and experts on Ukraine have written an open letter criticising some comments made by President Miloš Zeman regarding the country’s history. They say the president falsely attributed a quote calling for the killing of Poles to Ukrainian war-time nationalist leader Stepan Bandera and wrongly accused General Roman Shukhevych of ordering the murder of thousands of Jews. The experts sent a first letter in the summer asking the president to exercise restraint in his comments on Bandera, who is a controversial figure. Last week Mr. Zeman reopened the subject, saying he could not congratulate Ukraine on such heroes. The Czech president has called the military conflict in Ukraine a civil war and denounced related EU sanctions against Russia.

Czech Airlines seeks average wage cuts of 40 percent: report

Unions and management of Czech Airlines (ČSA) are at loggerheads over a proposal for staff to take an average wage cut of around 40 percent, the daily Mladá Fronta Dnes reported on Tuesday. A union representative said the previous demand had amounted to a wage cut of around a third. The two sides have been attempting to seal a new collective agreement for a month. The cash strapped airline in October agreed 180 redundancies, mostly from cabin crew and pilots. Management of the still state-controlled carrier had originally called for 300 staff to leave.

Unions at Tesco threaten strike action over closures

Trade unions at the Tesco supermarket chain in the Czech Republic have threatened strike action after management announced plans to close two stores. The British-owned chain has said it is shutting branches at Smíchov in Prague and Ústí nad Labem in north Bohemia due to their poor location and strong competition. Union leaders say they fear that Tesco will close more stores, as it has done in other countries. They have declared a state of strike alert but say they will not go on strike before further talks with management or unless more branches are shut.

Nurse responsible for fatal disinfectant mix-up gets jail

A nurse who accidentally gave a pregnant women poisonous disinfectant instead of a glucose drink at a hospital in Orlová, north Moravia has been sentenced to a year in prison for death by negligence. The patient, 32, died a few days after the mix-up, which occurred in June last year.

Foreigners from former Soviet republics behind record high sales of flats in Prague

Interest from foreigners is behind the record-high sales of new flats in Prague last year, the daily Hospodarské noviny reports. Last year developers sold close to 6,000 new flats in Prague, which is more than in the pre-crisis year of 2007. People in Russia have responded to the fall of the rouble by trying to get their money out of the country and investing in real estate abroad is a popular option, real estate expert Alexandra Krabcova told the daily. The real estate agency Century 21 says it has registered a several fold increase in demand by Russians and Kazakhs and developer Ekospol says many of its new clients are from the former Soviet Republics – Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Belarus. Every sixth flat sold in Prague is now sold to a foreigner and real estate experts believe demand will rise further, Hospodarské noviny says.

Zeman would welcome Czechs soldiers joining Castle Guard after Afghan tours

President Miloš Zeman says he would welcome Czech soldiers who have returned from duty in Afghanistan joining the Castle Guard at Prague Castle. Mr. Zeman made the comment on a visit to a parachute regiment in Chrudim, which took place during a tour he is making of the Pardubice region. He said some veterans who had served with the Czech Army in Afghanistan had already joined the Castle Guard. The president also called for increased funding for Czech Army units involved in the battle against international terrorism.

Biologist Helena Fulková becomes first Czech scientist to clone mouse

Helena Fulková has become the first Czech scientist to clone a mouse. The biologist conducted the cloning in Japan, one of the leading countries in that area of science. Ms. Fulková told the Czech News Agency she had succeeded in cloning six baby mice, most of which were still alive. She had been working on research into genetically modified mice at a university in Tokyo and said she only carried out the cloning at the suggestion of a colleague in order to enhance a paper they were working on together.

Major Trnka exhibition set to open in hometown of Plzeň

A major exhibition dedicated to the great Czech animator and illustrator Jiří Trnka is set to open in his hometown of Plzeň on Saturday as part of the city’s events as European Capital of Culture. The show – designed by his son Jan Trnka – will feature Trnka’s puppets for films, book illustrations, paintings, sculptures and other items on an area measuring hundreds of square metres. It will also include a screening room showing Trnka’s animated films. Plzeň’s year as European Capital of Culture officially gets underway with three days of events this weekend.