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Organised crime squad raid offices of state mining company

Officers from the police’s organised crime squad raided premises of the state mining company Diamo on Tuesday. According to the news website Euro.cz, the investigation centres on a public tender procedure to purchase land in Cínovec, north Bohemia for the future mining of lithium.

In October the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, said Diamo should become actively involved in a project to mine lithium at Cínovec. This followed reports that the Australian firm European Metals Holdings had acquired permission from the Czech authorities to begin test drills.

The Czech state had signed a memorandum with European Metals Holdings on exploiting the mine but that was abrogated by Mr. Babiš’s government.

Tractor-makers Zetor to make major layoffs

Zetor Tractors plans to let around 40 percent of its staff go at the end of March. Some 260 jobs will be lost at the Brno company, which union representatives said was in financial difficulties.

Whereas Zetor sold almost 4,200 tractors in 2014, that figure had fallen to below 2,800 last year.

Since its foundation in 1946 Zetor has produced over 1.3 million tractors. In 2016 some 86 percent of its vehicles were exported.

Senate speaker Kubera to make New Year’s address to nation

The speaker of the Senate, Jaroslav Kubera of the Civic Democrats, will make a New Year’s address to the nation on January 1. The chairman of the Senate is the second highest constitutional official. Previously Czech presidents delivered a speech on New Year’s Day but the incumbent Miloš Zeman prefers to do so on December 26.

Mr. Kubera’s address is expected to last 10 minutes and reflect on the social and political atmosphere in the country, the Czech News Agency reported. The Senate speaker is a former mayor of Teplice and is a well-known smokers’ rights advocate.

First Czechoslovak postage stamps issued 100 years ago

The first Czechoslovak postage stamps were issued 100 years ago on this day. The stamps – which went on sale less than two months after the foundation of the country – featured an image of the Prague Castle complex created by Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha. Philatelist Tomáš Mádl told Czech Television that Sokol and Jan Hus were considered but an apolitical motif was preferred.

The stamps came in green five-heller and red 10-heller variants. Around 100 million were produced in total, meaning they are of little value today.

Baby hippo born at Dvůr Králové for first time in decades

A hippopotamus has been born at the Dvůr Králové zoo in East Bohemia for the first time in 29 years, officials have announced. The animal was born last Wednesday to a seven-year-old female that arrived there in 2016.

The father was a hippo from a zoo in Germany’s Stuttgart. Another baby hippo is due at the zoo in the coming weeks as part of a revived breeding programme.

Performer Lukáš Hofmann awarded 2018 Chalupecký Prize

This year’s Jindřich Chalupecký Award for artists under the age of 35 has been presented to Lukáš Hofmann. The 25-year-old student at Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts, also known as Saliva, expresses himself primarily through performance and social sculptures.

According to the jury, his performances are a “fascinating, monstrous and in a way perverse expression of the fragility and insecurity of the individual confronted with the world of impersonal forces.”

The award – which is open to artists under the age of 35 – includes 100,000 crowns towards an exhibition and catalogue and a six-week fellowship in New York.

Valuable objects related to Charles University go on display in Prague

An exhibition gets underway in the Imperial Hall of Carolinum, a complex of Charles University buildings in Prague’s Old Town on Tuesday, presenting the university’s most valuable artistic and historic objects.

Among the items on display are the founding documents of the university, the papal letter from Pope Clement VI from 26 January 1347 expressing his consent with the foundation of the university and a sealer from the 14th century.

The exhibition at Prague’s Carolinum will continue until the end of January.

Slavia enter winter break with four-point advantage

Slavia Prague go into the winter break in Czech soccer’s top flight with a four-point advantage. They extended their lead over second-placed Viktoria Plzeň with a 2:0 away win over Jablonec on Monday evening in the final game of the 19th round. Jablonec had defeated Slavia in the capital earlier in the season.

The next round of the Czech first division takes place on February 9. Slavia last lifted the title the season before last.

Weather forecast

It should be overcast in the Czech Republic on Wednesday, with temperatures of up to 0 degrees Celsius. Daytime highs are expected to rise gradually over the following days, reaching around 5 degrees Celsius on Christmas Eve, when rain is also expected.