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PM defends president’s decision to travel to Moscow

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has defended the president’s decision to travel to Moscow on May 9 to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WW II and to honour those who died fighting against the Nazi threat. On Tuesday, Mr Sobotka said he would not try and intervene – reacting to an appeal by the former speaker of the lower house, opposition MP Miroslava Němcová of the Civic Democrats, who has criticized the visit and the president as the only EU head-of-state so far due to attend on the anniversary in Moscow, given Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. The Czech prime minister indicated that the visit by Mr Zeman would not change the Czech Republic’s stance on Ukraine and sanctions against Russia and Vladimir Putin’s regime. In the past, the Washington Post slammed the Czech president’s approach to Russia, calling him a “virtual mouthpiece” for Mr Putin.

Former speaker of lower house calls on government not to finance president’s Moscow trip

The former speaker of the lower house and prominent Civic Democrat MP Miroslava Němcová called on Bohuslav Sobotka’s centre-left government on Monday not to foot the bill for President Miloš Zeman’s trip to Moscow on May 9th. Mr Zeman is reportedly the only EU head-of-state so far who has accepted an invitation by the Kremlin to attend celebrations in Russia marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WW II. Other heads-of-state will stay away in response to Russian intervention in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. On Monday, Ms Němcová drew fire from the president’s spokesman, who suggested her approach to ceremonies marking the defeat of Nazism “spoke for itself”. Defenders of the president say he is going to Moscow to honour those who died fighting to defeat the Third Reich.

PM Bohuslav Sobotka to meet with president

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and President Miloš Zeman are due to meet on Wednesday at Prague Castle. The meeting was requested by the prime minister and one of the themes of the meeting is the attempt to better coordinate the foreign policy stances of the head of state and government, the president’s spokesman said. Mr. Sobotka, the head of the leading government party, the Social Democrats, and the president are also expected to compare notes on the recently completed party congress in Prague. President Zeman denounced the introduction of a 40% quota of woman candidates in elections as insulting to women. He also criticized the meeting for failing to confront the reasons for the Social Democrats’ disappointing results at the general election in October 2013. The head of state’s and former social democrat leader’s relations with the prime minister are strained.

Agrofert clashes with Czech Television over investigative reports

Czech agro-chemical giant Agrofert, owned by billionaire businessman and leader of the ANO political party Andrej Babiš, has complained about four separate reports by public service broadcaster Czech Television. It says the reports suggested that the company was given favourable treatment it would not have won were it not for Babiš’ public position. He is also minister of finance and a deputy prime minister. The company has called for the reports on the investigative programme ‘Reporters’ to be corrected and action to be taken against those responsible. Czech Television said the complaints will be dealt with in the usual way by the broadcaster’s council. The broadcaster has recently been the focus of attacks by President Miloš Zeman and his close allies after a live broadcast of the head of state’s spokesman was dropped. President Zeman has suggested those damaged by tv reports need not pay their license fees.

Czech Skanska suspected of corruption

The Czech subsidiary of the Swedish construction and development firm Skanska is suspected of being involved in a corruption scandal, Czech Radio reported on Tuesday. The radio quoted two high-ranking Skanska officials, who said that Skanska sent 100 million crowns to a company that was involved in completing the R7 motorway, adding that the money was subsequently used for bribing. The head of the Czech Skanska at the time was the current transport minister Dan Ťok, nominated by the ANO party.

Metrostav offers to complete Blanka tunnel

Construction firm Metrostav has offered Prague City Hall it will take full responsibility for completing work on the controversial Blanka tunnel complex. The opening of the tunnel was recently postponed indefinitely by Prague authorities after it emerged that hundreds of kilometres of electric cables had been damaged by water and needed replacing. In a letter addressed to Prague mayor Adriana Krnáčová, the head of Metrostav, Jiří Bělohlav, said the firm was ready to take over the technological part of the construction from ČKD Praha DIZ, a firm that supplied the damaged cables. Originally meant to open in 2011, the 37-billion crown project was most recently scheduled to open in April.

American actress Kim Novak arrives in Prague

American actress of Czech descent, Kim Novak, known for starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller Vertigo and many other films, arrived in Prague on Monday. The 81-year-old actress will attend the Febiofest international film festival which gets underway on Thursday. She will be handed the Kristian award for her lifelong contribution to world cinematography at the festival’s opening. The actress will also have an exhibition of her paintings on display at the Strahov Monastery in Prague.

Trial of duo suspected of attacking singer Hrůza begins

The case of an attack on the popular rock musician Michal Hrůza started in an Ostrava court on Tuesday. The singer-songwriter was hospitalised with a brain haemorrhage and concussion after attempting to stop a fight between two young men during the Colours of Ostrava music festival last year. According to the prosecutor, the men threatened to beat up the singer if he called the police. The students, aged 18 and 19, are charged with blackmail and disorderly conduct. If found guilty, they could face between five and 12 years behind bars. The popular musician recently announced his first concert plans following the injury, with a tour getting underway in Prague on Thursday before moving on to seven other Czech cities.

Pilsen 2015 awarded by Czech Tourism as best project of 2015

The project Plzeň – European Capital of Culture has been awarded the Czech Tourism Award in the category of the Best Project at the ITB Berlin tourism trade fair, Radovan Auer, marketing and communication director of Plzeň 2015 told the Czech News Agency. He said it was the best project for 2014 promoting the Czech Republic abroad. According to the latest figures, the number of overnight stays in Plzeň rose by 20 percent last year and it is slightly higher in the first months of this year.

NHL action: Plekanec notches two points in Canadiens loss to Tampa

In four matches in the NHL on Monday only a single Czech player got points: Tomáš Plekanec with a goal and an assist for the Montreal Canadiens against close rivals in the Eastern Conference, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Habs have played well this season and are on track to clinching a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs but have had a miserable March so far – winning only two of their last eight games. On Monday, Tampa won by a score of 4:2.