Information from the intelligence services indicates that terrorists may be using the Czech Republic as a transit country to get to other states, for instance to France, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Thursday. Terrorists are travelling through the Czech Republic to divert the attention of the French authorities, which consider it a safe country, he said. According to the French judiciary, one of the French jihadists, questioned after his return from Syria to France, testified that the alleged organiser of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, had ordered him to travel through Prague not to be disclosed.
By attending a rally organised by Bloc against Islam in Prague on Tuesday on the occasion of November 17, President Miloš Zeman had distanced himself from democratic values, a group of five Czech EU deputies wrote in a letter addressed to the Czech head of state. The deputies, including Michaela Šojdrová of the Christian Democratic Party and Jaromír Štětina for TOP 09, criticize the Czech president for supporting the initiative Block against Islam, which they call a fascist-style movement. President’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček has rejected the criticism, arguing that the deputies are merely attempting to attract media’s attention.
The Vice-President of the European Commission and EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini has postponed her visit to the Czech Republic, originally scheduled for Thursday. She was requested to change her plans by Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek, who suffered a leg injury, the ministry’s spokeswoman said on Thursday. Citing a highly-placed EU source Czech Radio’s news station Radiožurnál said the real reason may have been president Zeman’s controversial appearance at Albertov, when he voiced support for those opposing more immigrants coming to the country. Ms Mogherini was also set to meet with PM Bohuslav Sobotka, President Miloš Zeman and Defence Minister Martin Stropnický.
An Arab group planned a terrorist attack on the Sazka Arena (presently known as the O2 Arena) stadium in Prague during the ice hockey world championships in April and May 2004, the daily Lidové noviny wrote on Thursday, citing intelligence sources. “A group of Arabs wanted to fire an anti-tank missile into the building and cause panic, due to which people would be trampled to death,” a source from the secret services who requested anonymity told the paper. A former intelligence officer who occupied a senior post at the time confirmed the information, the paper wrote. The spokesman for the BIS counter-intelligence service refused to comment on the information. However, the threat was mentioned in the BIS annual report for 2004.
Czech police arrested two men with French documents and a car full of weapons on the Czech-Slovak border in April, the news website Lidovky.cz reported on Wednesday, suggesting that the Czech Republic might have been a state via which weapons were transferred for use in the terrorist attacks in Paris. A police patrol stopped the car with weapons near the border crossing in Starý Hrozenkov, east Moravia. They detained two men, both French nationals. In June, the police proposed that criminal charges be filed against them. The police, the daily said, then reported the case to the Czech National Contact Point for Terrorism, which falls under the police organised crime squad. The squad’s spokesman Pavel Hanták told Lidovky.cz that the suspects were caught transporting devalued expansion weapons bought in Slovakia. Such weapons are adjusted for shooting with blanks only. However, automatic rifles that can be easily adjusted to kill are also on sale in Slovakia, the website reported.
The ANO party of businessman Andrej Babiš would win elections to the lower house of parliament with 26.8 percent, according to the results of an opinion poll conducted by the STEM agency. The November survey shows the ANO lead over the Social Democrats shrinking slightly. The latter would get 21.2 percent of the votes. The Communist Party would finish third, with 12.8 percent, the survey suggests. TOP 09 enjoys the backing of 9.6 percent of voters, ahead of the Civic Democrats with 8.6 percent and the Christian Democrats with 6.3 percent, the poll indicates. ANO have been consistently ahead in opinion polls for some time.
An attempt by students to lay flowers under a plaque at Albertov to mark November 17th just hours ahead of the president’s speech there was clearly a provocation, the president’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček told the Czech Television on Thursday. The police on Tuesday turned away students who wanted to mark the historic events, but they later allowed the president’s supporters access. President Miloš Zeman addressed a gathering that included members of the Bloc Against Islam, for which he has come under fierce criticism. On Wednesday, students announced that they would mark the anniversary ‘properly’ on November 28.
Czech car maker Škoda Auto has raised prices of its most popular cars on the Czech market, the website aktualne.cz reported on Thursday. According to the company, prices were increased due to inflation. They also said the price hike will be compensated by an improvement in the basic equipment offered on models. As of next week, the price for a Škoda Superb will increase by 15,000 crowns and the price for an Octavia by 5,000 crowns. The price of a Fabia currently starts at 239,000 crowns and the top of the range Superb at 614,000 crowns.
Some 4.9 million people have visited the Czech Republic’s chateaux and castles this season, which is 300,000 more than last year, the National Heritage Institute said at a press conference on Thursday. Conservationists expect the number to reach five million, since some of the castles and chateaux, such as Karlštejn, or Sychrov, remain open even during the winter season. Lednice remains the most visited chateaux, followed by Český Krumlov and Hluboká.
Czech performer Karel Gott was released from hospital earlier this week it was reported on Wednesday – some three weeks after doctors found the 76-year-old singer was suffering from Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. The cancer was uncovered after Mr Gott was taken to the emergency ward after suffering stomach problems. During his three-week stay, Mr Gott underwent chemotherapy and faces a second phase in the coming days, his spokeswoman revealed. She thanked supporters but asked that the media continue to respect the singer and his family’s privacy during treatment.
Czech football striker Václav Kadlec is set to transfer from Eintracht Frankfurt to Danish club Midtjylland in January 2016. The 23-year old Czech attacker will be joining another Czech, left back Filip Novák, who moved to the Danish club earlier this year. Midtjylland has signed a contract with Kadlec until the end of 2019 and paid some two million euro (around 54 million crowns) for the Czech player.
Strong winds are expected to hit the Czech Republic on Thursday night, with gales of up to 110 kilometres an hour likely in mountain areas, the Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute has warned. The winds should ease-off on Friday morning. Forecasters also expect heavy rain in mountain areas over the weekend, which could gradually also turn into snow.