A snub by Czech President Miloš Zeman, who said an interview for Parlamentní listy that the door to Prague Castle, the seat of the head of state, was closed to the US ambassador, has caught the attention of the international media, including Der Spiegel and The Wall Street Journal. Mr Zeman made the snub against the US ambassador, Andrew Schapiro, on Sunday, after the latter criticized the Czech president's intention to attend celebrations in Moscow marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.
The ambassador suggested that Mr Zeman's decision to attend a military parade - while other EU heads of state will be boycotting the event over Russia's annexation of Crimea and intervention in Ukraine - sent an unfortunate symbolic message. The ambassador issued a follow-up saying he was surprised by the president's reaction, but that he stood by his statement. Der Spiegel suggests Mr Zeman's planned attendance in Moscow on May 9 has hurt Czech-US relations. The Wall Street Journal, like the Czech press, notes that Mr Zeman is likely to be the only western head-of-state to attend, joining the ranks of guests such as North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The Russian media has largely praised the Czech president for his decision to attend the celebrations.
In related news, a senior member of the ANO Party, Jaroslav Faltýnek, called the president's statement "needlessly inflammatory" while former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg made clear the ambassador was allowed to "express his opinion" including criticism. Mr Schwarzenberg, the head of TOP 09, ran against Mr Zeman in the last presidential election. The Wall Street Journal reported that President Andrej Kiska of Slovakia was taking a tougher stance on Moscow; he said at the weekend that Russia bore responsibility for what was happening in Ukraine. Czech President Zeman had said the reason he will travel to Moscow will be to honor Soviet soldiers who fell in WWII fighting to liberate Czechoslovakia from the Nazis.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová, together with representatives of the Prague Public Transit Company, launched the opening of four new metro stations on Monday, extending line "A". The new six kilometre stretch, officials expect, will improve traffic in the city and improve ease of travel for passengers. Construction of the extended line was launched in 2009 and cost roughly 20 billion crowns.
Traditional folk customs were observed by many on Easter Monday - a public holiday in the Czech Republic, when a braided willow whip decorated with ribbons known as the pomlázka is used to symbolically whip women and girls in return for painted eggs. Girls can also be doused with water but it is not commonly practiced. The custom has pre-Christian roots in pagan fertility rites. According to the rite, females 'whipped' on Easter Monday remain healthy and fertile for the entire year.
A 29-year-old motorist was charged by Jáchymov police at the weekend for an attack which put a police colleague in hospital and on longterm sick leave, the Czech News Agency reports. Before the attack, the man had been stopped by a patrol on the suspicion of drink driving. The state prosecutor recommended for the suspect be remanded in custody but he was released. If found guilty, the man could face up to six years behind bars.
Ski hill operators have seen continued interest from skiers this year, with some extending the season even past the Easter holidays. Although runs at some hills will be closed during the work week, some resorts will reopen again next Friday. According to the Czech News Agency, the Zadov ski hill saw 1,500 clients over the weekend, with operators saying there was still enough snow. Likewise, cross-country skiers are still using well-maintained trails in the Jizera Mountains. This year's ski season has been welcomed as a marked improvement over the last, which saw little snowfall and generally poor conditions.
The Montreal Canadiens avoided their first four-game losing streak this season, defeating the Florida Panthers on Sunday by a score of 4:1. The Habs lost their top scorer Max Pacioretty early in the first but others, including the team's Tomáš Plekanec, fought to take control of the match. Plekanec, who has now scored 24 this season, racked up a goal and an assist. With the win, Montreal regained top spot in the Atlantic Division. Florida, the new home to legendary forward Jaromír Jágr, will not play in this year's playoffs.
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