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Five days later, thousands mark November 17 at Albertov

Thousands of students and other people gathered at Prague’s Albertov on Sunday to mark the historical events of November 17 1939 and 1989. On Tuesday, when the landmarks are usually commemorated, police refused to allow students to gather there due to the fact the group Bloc Against Islam had booked the spot for a rally addressed by President Miloš Zeman. Participants in Sunday’s gathering carried signs reading Education against fear and No to violence and collective guilt. The Nazis subjected Czech students to terror on November 17 1939; it later became International Students Day and in 1989 saw the beginning of the Velvet Revolution.

PM tasks interior minister with security audit over Europe terror threats

The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, has tasked the minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec, with conducting a security audit of the Czech Republic in the light of terrorist threats to Europe. Speaking to journalists on the first day of a week-long official visit to China, the PM said Mr. Chovanec should introduce a system establishing set reactions to particular levels of threat. He said the minister was working on measures that would be discussed at the ministries and by the State Security Council.

Sobotka starts China visit with speech at business seminar

The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, began a week-long official visit to China on Sunday with an appearance at a Czech-Chinese business seminar in Shanghai. Mr. Sobotka told the assembled that the Czech Republic had welcomed several new Chinese investors in recent months and that he believed more contracts would be agreed during his visit. He is being accompanied by the Czech ministers of health, transport and local development, as well as a large delegation of business people.

Minister: Army could contribute up to 200 troops to anti-ISIS ground operations

The Czech Army could send up to 200 medics and chemicals specialists in the case of ground operations against Islamic State, the Czech minister of defence, Martin Stropnický, said on a television discussion show on Sunday. Such a deployment would need to be discussed by the government and would need to take in the Czech Republic’s domestic needs, he said. Mr. Stropnický said there were many potential snags connected to ground operations in the Middle East and large states were reluctant to undertake them. It is “clear to everybody” that Russia must take part in any coalition against Islamic State, he added.

Army advisor says secret services monitoring pro-Putin “Czechoslovak Soldiers in Reserve”

An advisor to the chief of staff of the Czech Army, Ludvík Cimburek, says the country’s secret services are beginning to monitor the self-styled Czechoslovak Soldiers in Reserve. The group are supporters of President Miloš Zeman and Russia’s Vladimir Putin and regard NATO as a criminal organisation. Mr. Cimburek told the Czech News Agency that there could be problems in future if its members were to join the army or police force. Czechoslovak Soldiers in Reserve signs were held aloft at a recent anti-Islam rally at which Mr. Zeman spoke.

Visitor numbers at Czech castles likely to pass five-million mark in 2015

Visitor numbers at Czech state-owned castles and chateaus this year are expected to pass the five-million mark, Novinky.cz reported. Over 4.9 million visitors at properties administered by the National Heritage Institute had been recorded by the end of October, some 300,000 more than at the same point in 2014, a year which saw record numbers, the news website said. A representative of the National Heritage Institute said increasing numbers of castles and chateaus were now open year-round rather that in the traditional April to October period.

Christmas tree for Old Town Square felled

The Christmas tree that will adorn Prague’s Old Town Square during the festive season was felled by national champion lumberjack Jiří Vorlíček in Česká Lípa, north Bohemia on Sunday. The 23-metre spruce is set to reach the capital on Tuesday. It will be lit on Saturday, marking the launch of the city’s Christmas markets, and remain in place until January 6.