Czech politicians have welcomed the ceasefire deal agreed by Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine on Wednesday night in Minsk, Belarus. According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, the agreement could be a turning point in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Mr Zaorálek said the deal would only prove effective if Russia fulfils its promise to withdraw its heavy arms and stop supplies to the pro-Russian rebels. President Miloš Zeman said he hoped the Minsk agreement would not end like all the previous peace treaties, and would really bring an end to the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Two Czech soldiers have been awarded Bronze Star Medals, one of the highest individual honours in the US military, for their service in Afghanistan, the spokeswoman for the Czech General Staff said on Thursday. The decoration was given to Petr Liška, commander of a military company patrolling the Bagram allied base, and Sergeant Adam Kopecký. Since the start of their operation last October, the military company has eliminated one of the Taliban cells and uncovered one of the biggest explosives caches near the base.
Under pressure political party leader Tomio Okamura received another rebuff when his proposal for direct election and dismissal of local mayors was rejected in the lower house of parliament. Okamura’s proposal was dubbed by one of his peers as the worst piece of legislation ever to be presented. Ninety-five of the 145 members of parliament present rejected the proposal out of hand during Wednesday’s session. Okamura is currently dealing with a rebellion within this Dawn (Úsvit) party with 10 out of the party’s 14 members of parliament saying they plan to launch a new party and strategy without him.
A top Czech official at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels has lost his security clearance from the domestic National Security Authority (NBÚ), according to media reports. Jan Vylita is one of a top six member team at NATO which carries out audits of its various activities. He previously had clearance to see ‘secret’ dossiers and had asked in 2013 for that to be upgraded to ‘top secret.’ The NBÚ has, however, revoked his clearance completely citing non-specified actions against Czech interests taken when he was working at the Ministry of Defense in the post of general manager between 2010 and 2013. It is not yet clear whether Vylita will lose his NATO post as a result.
The lower house on Thursday passed a resolution supporting the strengthening of Czech humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees, who are now living in camps in Jordan and Turkey. At the same time, the deputies rejected the idea of binding EU quotas for the acceptance of refugees and came out against the restriction of movement in the Schengen zone. Instead, the lower house came out in support of a joint EU effort to better protect the alliance’s outer borders. In January the cabinet accepted a proposal for the country to take in 15 families of Christian Syrians, who are now living in exile and approved a programme to help refugees directly in the affected areas.
President Miloš Zeman continues his five-day visit of Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. On Thursday Mr Zeman was received by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The fight against international terrorism was high on the agenda of their talks. The Czech head of state also attended the official opening of the new Czech embassy building in Abu Dhabi. The Czech diplomatic mission, which has been operating in the country for 25 years, has moved to a new residence due to safety and technical reasons.
The European Commission on Thursday approved the Czech government’s state aid for the phase-out of the Paskov coal mine in Moravia-Silesia. Under the government’s plan, mining will continue for three more years and the government will pay 600 million crowns for social and training programmes for miners. The mine’s owner, OKD, on Thursday announced its intention to dismiss 300 employees by the end of April. Another 500 workers, mostly of retirement age, will leave during the year. Some 800 people will be also dismissed by OKD’s contractors. The future of the mine, which produces dark or hard coal often used in the steel industry, has been undermined by a collapse in world coal prices.
The arms and military equipment producer Česká zbrojovka has won a tender to provide the Czech Army with 2,291 bullet-proof vests. The company’s representatives announced the news at a press conference on Thursday. The Defence Ministry is set to pay 68 million crowns for the items. The vests will be delivered to the army by the end of November after undergoing a final round of testing. Six companies took part in the tender which was announced in June 2014. Česká zbrojovka was chosen mainly due to its low price offer.
One person died in a helicopter crash near the town of Terezín in Central Bohemia on Thursday. The accident occurred at around 10 AM when the two-person aircraft crash-landed and caught fire, a police spokesman said. The authorities are now investigating the causes of the accident. At the time of the crash, the sky in the region was overcast, with low visibility.
The Czech biathlete Veronika Vítková took the bronze medal in the 15 km World Cup event in Norway’s Oslo on Thursday. The gold went to Kaisa Makarainen of Finland and the silver to Darya Domracheva of Belarus. The 26-year-old Vítková claimed her sixth victory this season and moved up to an overall third position in the World Cup rankings.
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