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Czech Republic calls on Russia to release Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko

The Czech Republic has called for the immediate release of Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko who was persuaded to end her 82-day hunger strike in a Russian jail on Thursday. In a statement on its web page the Czech Foreign Ministry says that the decision of a Russian court to prevent Ms. Savchenko from attending the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is regrettable and violates her parliamentary immunity. The ministry calls for Ms.Savchenko to be released on humanitarian grounds together with other Ukrainian political prisoners. The ministry notes that this would be in keeping with the recently agreed "Package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements" and the commitment to release all hostages and detained persons related to the conflict in Ukraine.

Czech PM: Czech Republic has vested interest in joining more NATO military exercises

The Czech Republic has a vested interest in partaking in joint military exercises of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said in Thursday in response to the news that the US was considering expanding Operation Atlantic Resolve to cover the Czech Republic, Hungary and Russia's southern neighbor, Georgia. Exercises between US troops and Polish, Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian forces began last April at these countries’ request as deterrence to possible Russian aggression. The Czech Prime minister said the country would offer to host some of the exercises at its military bases.

Prague mayor calls for parliamentary commission to investigate problematic construction of Blanka tunnel

Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová has asked legislators to form a parliamentary commission which would conduct a thorough investigation into the problematic construction of Prague’s Blanka tunnel. Following another unsuccessful meeting with contractors at which she said everyone tried to lay the blame of everyone else, the mayor said her patience was at an end and she wanted to know who was responsible for the numerous failings surrounding the tunnel’s construction. The mayor said it appeared to be a criminal conspiracy to get as much money from the city’s coffers as possible.

It recently emerged that the tunnel would not be open until next year at the soonest, as hundreds of kilometers of water-damaged cables have to be replaced. The tunnel which has cost Prague 37 billion crowns was originally meant to open in 2011.

Bells toll for victims of Uherský Brod tragedy

Bells tolled and sirens wailed around the country at midday on Thursday in memory of the eight victims of the Uherský Brod shootings. The town is still recovering from the worst incident of violence in the country’s modern history when a deranged sixty-three-year-old man entered a pub and fired indiscriminately at those present. Seven men and one woman – the waitress –were killed. The incident has triggered debate on gun-ownership and the distribution of rapid reaction forces around the country. The Zlín region, where the incident occurred does not have its own rapid reaction force and is covered by the one in Brno which arrived at the scene too late.

PM backs education minister in matter of financing

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has thrown his weight behind Education Minister Marcel Chládek who is radically opposed to a proposed cut in financing for the education sector in 2016. Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has proposed slashing the education and research budget by more than a billion crowns next year which the education minister says would have devastating consequences. Following a meeting with Minister Chládek and university rectors on Thursday Prime Minister Sobotka said that he too disagreed with the proposed cuts saying that economizing in the education sector would not increase the country’s competitiveness in the years to come. This year the education sector is operating on 22 billion crowns.

Former police chief sentenced to 20 months in jail for abuse of office

The Brno Municipal Court has sentenced former Brno police chief Jaroslav Přikryl to twenty months in prison for abuse of office and unauthorized handling of data. According to the state attorney, Přikryl repeatedly got his friends and acquaintances out of having to pay fines for traffic offences and he unlawfully manipulated the police database. The former police chief has appealed the verdict.

Elite tax-evasion unit Cobra producing results

An elite tax-evasion unit code-named Cobra, which was established by the government last year, is reported to have prevented losses to state coffers to the tune of 1.7 billion crowns in the first nine months of its existence. The squad uncovered 11 cases of large-scale tax fraud, opening the way for charges to be brought against 82 persons. Police President Tomáš Tuhý, who briefed the government on the squads’ work on Thursday, said he wanted to expand it by 150 people over the next four years.

Majority of Czechs in favor of electronic voting

Fifty-seven percent of Czechs say they would welcome the introduction of electronic voting, according to the results of a survey conducted by the STEM agency. Politicians are increasingly open to the idea and the Christian Democrats of the ruling coalition have said they would like to see the option introduced as of 2017. Electronic voting was the subject of a seminar in the lower house on Thursday at which MPs could discuss various aspects of this practice. Estonia was the first and so far only European country to introduce electronic voting eight years ago.

Czech Republic has one of the biggest discrepancies in pay between men and women in the EU

The Czech Republic has one of the biggest discrepancies in pay between men and women within the European Union, according to data provided by Eurostat. While the European average is 16.4 percent, the average discrepancy in salaries for men and women in the Czech Republic is 21.1 percent. Estonia has the highest discrepancy – at 29.9 percent – followed by Austria with 23 percent. The smallest discrepancy in wages is in Slovenia where the difference is a mere 3.2 percent.

Prague tops post communist capitals in quality of living survey

Czech capital Prague has been ranked 68th in a worldwide list of the best places for the quality of life by the US consultancy Mercer. The three top placed cities were Vienna, Zurich, and Auckland, New Zealand. Prague is the top ranked city in post-communist Central Europe, although former East Germany’s Leipzig is placed 49th. Budapest and Slovenian capital Ljubljana were ranked 75, Warsaw 79th, and Bratislava 81th.