The Czech government on Wednesday approved President Miloš Zeman’s May trip to Moscow for celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. The government last week failed to take a decision on whether it would cover the cost of the trip indicating that this would not be possible were the president to attend the planned military parade which is seen as a show of force underscoring Russia’s dominance in the region. The trip was approved after the Presidential Office announced that he wouldn’t be attending the parade and will be meeting instead for one-on-one talks with the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico.
The Czech Army expects to recruit up to 70,000 people a year within a “conscription” bill that the government plans to reintroduce, Deputy Defence Minister Daniel Koštoval and Deputy Chief-of-Staff František Maleninský announced at a press conference on Wednesday. Under the proposal, which still has to pass through Parliament, from 2017 all Czechs will have to report to the army when they turn 18 and declare whether they would be willing to serve their country. The bill makes participation in military exercises voluntary at times of peace, but the parliament is also considering making the participation obligatory for all the recruits.
Former Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Wednesday testified at the trial of his wife and former chief-of-staff Jana Nagyová, who is charged with abuse of office. The former chief-of-staff – who had an affair with Mr Nečas before marrying him after his divorce – is accused of allegedly ordering military surveillance of his wife Radka Nečasová in order to find compromising material. The former prime minister, who testified behind closed door, denied the accusation, adding that his wife had done nothing unlawful. It is the first time Mr Nečas, who has refused to testify for the police, has given evidence in the case. According to the state attorney, he is trying to clear his wife of charges of abusing office.
Czech Minister of Defence Martin Stropnický has met with his Brazilian counterpart Jacques Wagner during the LAAD Defence and Security trade fair in Rio de Janeiro. On the agenda of their talks was, among other things, the planned training of Brazilian pilots in Czech Army’s special simulation centre. Minister Stropnický has also visited the Embraer company, which produces military cargo aircraft using parts supplied by the Czech manufacturer Aero Vodochody. However, he has not confirmed if the Czech Army would be interested in their purchase.
Prague’s Municipal court on Wednesday ruled in favour of extraditing three suspected terrorist collaborators to the US. The three were caught trying to sell arms for cocaine by undercover US agents passing as members of the Colombian FARC group. The men, two of them from the Ivory Coast and the third a Lebanese with Ukrainian citizenship, were detained in Prague last April and have been in Czech custody ever since. The extradition order has to be confirmed by the Minister of Justice Robert Pelikán. The Municipal Court has previously sought assurances from the US that the three would not be tortured, subject to unhuman treatment, or subjected to solitary confinement.
Six men involved in a methanol poisoning case dating back to 2012 have been handed between 5.5 and 8.5 years in prison for their roles. A regional court in Zlín on Wednesday found them guilty of endangering the public, namely for having mixed and helped distribute deadly batches of bootleg liquor. The methanol affair claimed the lives of 47 people. The first poisonings appeared in September 2012, leading the government to temporarily introduce partial prohibition. The two main perpetrators in the affair were handed life sentences in February.
A new by-law changing the rules for the use of recreational motor boats and water scooters came into force on Wednesday. The new regulation abolishes most of the limits on the use of recreational vessels, such as the limit on speed, and extends the number of rivers and reservoirs where they are permitted. The country’s association of small and medium-sized enterprises has welcomed the change, hoping that it will boost tourism in the affected areas.
The state-owned postal firm Česká pošta posted a profit of 241 million crowns in 2014, which is a decrease by one fifth year-on-year. According to an official press release issued on Wednesday, the slump in profits was caused mainly by the decreasing volume of traditional mail deliveries. The number of domestic deliveries in 2014 went down by 10 percent compared to the previous year. The Czech Post currently employs around 32,000 employees and operates 3,400 branches around the country.
After a nearly six-month-delay the Czech National Museum can go ahead with the reconstruction of its historical building in the centre of Prague. The museum on Wednesday signed a contract with the winner of the tender, the M-P-I Národní Muzeum association. The reconstruction of the museum’s old building from the late 19th century will cost over one billion crowns. The building, situated in the upper part of Wenceslas Square, was closed to the public in July 2011.
Police in Prague are looking for three teenage girls in connection with the murder of a pensioner in the city. A doctor said immediately that the 72-year-old man had been murdered after his body was discovered in his flat in the Letňany district. Detectives have named and issued photos of 16-, 17- and 18-year-old girls that they wish to question in connection with the death.
The top Book of the Year prize at the prestigious Magnesia litera Czech literary awards has gone to Básník (Poet), subtitled A Novel about Ivan Blatný, by Martin Reiner. Almost 600 pages long, the book explores the life and work of Blatný, a leading Czech poet who went into exile in the UK and spent his later years in mental institutions. At Tuesday night’s awards ceremony in Prague the closely watched Prose prize went to Petr Stančík for Mlýn na mumie (Mill for Mummies).
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