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US military convoy to travel through Czech Republic, government confirms

The Czech government has agreed to a US military convoy to travel across Czech territory to Germany between March 29 and April 1 2015. The convoy – made up of 516 personnel and almost 120 vehicles – is returning from the Baltic states after taking part in the operation Atlantic Resolve. One aim of the operation – and the presence of the US military – was to demonstrate the strength and solidarity of NATO in the Baltics, in the face of Russian intervention in Ukraine. In the Czech Republic, the convoy will travel along three routes and then regroup near Prague before heading on to Plzeň and to a military base in Bavaria. Czech military police, police and customs officers are to provide assistance. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka confirmed on Monday that allowing US forces to travel on Czech soil was a show of solidarity with the Baltic states and also Poland which have felt threatened by Russia given the developments in Ukraine.

Škoda Auto raises net profit by 46 percent

Car maker Škoda Auto raised its net profit by 46 percent to 665 million euros (more than 18 billion crowns) in 2014, company representatives said at a press conference on Monday. Škoda's sales grew by 13.9 percent to 11.76 billion euros last year. Škoda Auto had said earlier its car sales increased by 12.7 percent in 2014, exceeding the level of one million cars for the first time in its history. Škoda's share on the world market rose by 0.1 percentage points to 1.4 percent. The car maker’s largest market was China where it sold 281,400 cars, an increase of 24 percent compared with the previous year. The car maker also recorded growth in sales in Western and Central Europe, but sales in Eastern Europe declined.

Czech authorities prepare plan in case of refugee influx

The Czech authorities have drafted a crisis plan listing measures that should be taken if there is an influx of refugees into the country, Czech Television reported. According to Interior Ministry documents, refugees would be housed in small humanitarian centres rather than camps. The crisis plan posits war as the most likely cause of such an influx, with Ukraine seen as representing the most immediate danger in that respect. Migration paths from Ukraine would affect the Czech Republic more than those from Syria or North Africa, Interior Ministry immigration policy chief Tomáš Haišman told Czech TV.

State Material Reserves Administration files 1.5 billion crown claim

Claims by the Czech Republic against the German firm Viktoriagruppe storing Czech strategic diesel oil reserves amount to 1.8 billion crowns, the Czech News Agency reported on Monday, the final day creditors can file claims against the company in insolvency. The Czech Republic's State Material Reserves Administration confirmed it has lodged claims worth 1.5 billion but a ČTK source said an additional 300 million could be filed by Czech customs and tax authorities. Neither body confirmed as much. The amount of Czech diesel oil stored in Germany would cover two days’ consumption across the country. The Czech Republic's total diesel oil reserves would suffice to cover consumption for 95 days, the news agency said.

Trial of Hrůza attackers set to begin

The regional court in Ostrava will hear opening statements on Tuesday in the trial of two youths who put singer Michal Hrůza in hospital last year. The singer, allegedly slapped and punched after trying to break up a fracas between the two suspects, reportedly fell backwards, suffering serious injury. He underwent emergency brain surgery and was left in an induced coma before being slowly awakened and beginning recovery. The duo is charged with rowdy or disorderly conduct and with having threatened the victim. Both of the charged have expressed regret over the incident but said they remember nothing. The singer returns to the stage this week, beginning with a concert in the Czech capital on Thursday.

Anti-organised crime unit completes investigation of case of alleged hate incitement

Police from the country’s anti-organised crime unit have revealed they have completed an investigation into a highly publicized case involving alleged incitement of religious hatred. Last year, officers raided two Islamic centres in the Czech capital – a mosque and a prayer room – in connection with the publication of a controversial Islamic book. One person, a former representative of the local Muslim community, was charged. The raids were criticized at the time by members of the community. A spokesman for the police unit revealed few other details, neglecting to say at this stage whether the police will recommend for the case to go to trial.

Number of counterfeit banknotes and coins seized tops 5,400

The number of counterfeit banknotes and coins of all currencies seized in the Czech Republic last year grew by 75 percent to a total of 5,461. Foreign banknotes and coins were forged more frequently than Czech bills and coins, the Czech National Bank announced in press release on Monday. The number of forged banknotes and coins in foreign currency rose by 1,978 to 3,063 and the number of forged banknotes and coins in Czech crowns increased by 353 to 2,398. Over the long-term, 1,000 crown and 500 crown banknotes are forged with the greatest frequently. The total value of the notes seized in Czech crowns grew from 2013´s 1.89 million to 2.22 million last year.

Experts project 15 percent rise in Czech online purchases this year

Czech consumers should spend some CZK 77 billion on online purchases in 2015, a year-on-year increase of 15 percent, according to estimates by the Electronic Commerce Association and the Heureka.cz price comparison website. Internet sales of foodstuffs are likely to show the strongest growth, the experts said. Czechs are also expected to spend some CZK 26 billion on services via the web this year.

Czech researchers say chili peppers can lessen chronic pain

Capsaicin, contained in chili peppers causing their “burning” or spicy taste, can lessen chronic pain, researchers from the Institute of Physiology at the Academy of Czech Sciences have learned, the spokeswoman for the institute, Diana Moosová, told ČTK on Monday. In their work, the team focused on the role of TRPV1 receptors and how receptor activity could be influenced to lessen pain for sufferers. The spokeswoman stressed that the findings by the group of scientists could lead to the development of more effective medicines for chronic pain.

Majority of ski resorts see drop in clients

The majority of ski resorts in the Czech Republic has registered a drop in the number of skiers and snowboarders even though most sites still report good snow conditions, the Czech News Agency writes. Observers in the Jizera Mountains for example said resorts there had registered a drop in clients by one-third from last weekend, while the popular Krkonoše Mountains have also seen fewer clients. Because of favourable conditions, around half of the country’s ski hills are planning to keep runs open at least until the beginning of April or this year’s Easter holidays.