The regional court in Brno has found the head of the Energy Regulatory Office (ERU)Alena Vitásková guilty of assisting in the fraudulent issuing of licenses to solar power plants, handing her an 8.5 year prison sentence. Eight of the nine other people charged with her also heard guilty verdicts. They were found guilty of issuing fraudulent licenses to two solar power plants in Bohemia before they were operational, thus enabling them to meet a deadline for substantially higher subsidy payments. Vitásková allegedly stopped an investigation into the matter and prevented the licenses being taken away. Vitásková has appealed the verdict. She claims she is innocent of any wrongdoing and says she will not resign until such a verdict is legally binding.
Interior Minister Milan Chovanec has defended the work of the police force during the anti-migrant protests in Prague ant the beginning of February. Minister Chovanec said the outcome of an internal investigation into the handling of the street violence showed that the police had not erred in fulfilling their duties and given the size of the demonstration had managed to get the situation under control as fast as could be expected. The minister pointed out that there were 10,000 protesters in the streets and 1,000 officers, making it the biggest street protest in 20 years. The police was criticized for allegedly turning a blind eye to far-right extremists and reportedly doing nothing to protect a Czech Radio van which came under attack as well.
The Czech Republic supports Georgia’s ambitions to join NATO and will continue to assist the country in the process of modernizing its army, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said following talks with his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Kvirikashvili in Prague on Monday. The Czech prime minister welcomed the democratization process in Georgia, the above-standard relations between Prague and Tbilisi and expressed appreciation of Georgia’s active approach to the Eastern Partnership programme an EU initiative aimed at strengthening bonds with six former Soviet satellites : Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
Unions at the Pakov mine which has been slated for closure before the end of the year are preparing to go on strike alert over the lack of a social programme to help laid-off miners. Paskov belongs to the OKD mining company which is in severe financial difficulties and has announced the planned closure of three mines. Paskov has 1,700 workers. Unions say that a social programme must be on the table by April and should include requalification courses for miners before dismissal, the possibility of some of them being transferred to other mines and severance pay depending on the number of years in service. The Czech government has refused OKD a bailout package, saying it will focus on helping laid-off employees. However the various forms of government assistance are also in the pipeline.
The Brno Regional Court has rejected a plea from wealthy businessman Roman Janoušek to have his jail term rescinded on health grounds, the news website Aktuálně reported on Monday. Mr. Janoušek, who is said to have enjoyed marked influence over politicians in Prague, is serving 4.5 years for hit and run. The court ruled that prison doctors were capable of providing him with any medical care that he needed. It was Mr. Janoušek’s third unsuccessful bid to has his sentence quashed
Mene Tekel, a week-long festival focused on the totalitarian regimes of the past, gets underway in Prague on Monday. The festival, now in its 10th year, will focus on meetings with those whose lives were blighted by Nazism or communism and experts on those subject regimes, as well as including exhibitions, film screenings and other events. One of the highlights of this year’s Mene Tekel will be an awards ceremony on Friday at Prague’s Divadlo na Vinohradech theatre celebrating artists who resisted totalitarianism in their work or were persecuted for their beliefs.
Czech scientists from Brno’s Masaryk University who are just back from James Ross Island say they have evidence of record high temperatures in the Antarctic, confirmation of the process of global warming. The record high of 17.8 degrees Celsius was registered by one of the monitoring stations they set up in the area – this one at the top of Davies Dome iceberg 500 metres above sea level in March of last year. The Czech team also found a new type of bacteria living in the ground, which has appeared repeatedly in samples collected since 2007.
An international conference is being held in Prague on Monday in connection with the opening of a branch of the European Investment Bank in the city. Among those due to attend are the bank’s president, Werner Hoyer, the Czech Republic’s European commissioner, Věra Jourová, Czech finance minister, Andrej Babiš, and Miroslav Singer, the governor of the Czech National Bank. The new branch will provide information to public institutions and companies on opportunities to finance projects using funding from the EIB and the European Fund for Strategic Investments.
Prominent Czech actress Iva Janžurová is reported to have undergone heart surgery at the Na Homolce Hospital in Prague. The operation took place on February 18 and the actress is recovering in intensive care, according to a spokesperson from Prague’s National Theatre, the actress’ home stage. The National Theatre has announced that it will be revising the programme at the Estates Theatre due to the actress’ absence.
Josef Křístek, one of the last remaining WWII veterans, has died at the age of 96. Křístek joined the Czechoslovak unit in Poland at the age of twenty, he later fought in the Siege of Tobruk and in 1943 was assigned to Great Britain where he fought in the Battle of Britain flying with the 312 Czechoslovak Squadron. His experiences are depicted in a book called Josef Křístek: Six years away from home. The funeral, with military honours, is to take place on Tuesday.
Meteorologists have called off a flood alert in the south and north eastern parts of the country where rivers in the Šumava Mountains and Orlické and Jizerské mountain ranges had swollen in the wake of heavy rain. Water levels started subsiding during the night hours and the situation is gradually returning to normal.