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05-06-2020

Czechs expel two Russian diplomats tied to bogus ‘assassination plot’

The Czech government has decided to expel two Russian diplomats, giving them 48 hours to leave the country, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš announced on Friday.

The move follows on bogus information that a Russian agent was sent to Prague in March to kill elected Prague officials using the poison ricin.

Babiš and Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček said the bogus plot stemmed from a dispute between Russian embassy staffers.

One had fed false information to Czech intelligence services that the other was targeting Prague’s Lord Mayor and district mayors who had taken symbolic steps angering the Kremlin.

The weekly Respekt wrote in April that Andrei Konchakov, deputy director of the embassy's Russian Centre for Science and Culture, had brought ricin into the Czech Republic from Russia.

Czechia reopens its borders with Austria and Hungary

The Czech Republic will fully open its borders with Austria and Hungary at midday Friday, Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček announced following a government session early on Friday morning.

According to Mr Petříček, negotiations with Germany are still underway. As of Friday, 12 a.m., Czechs can return from Germany without the need for a negative COVID-19 test. However, travel restrictions are still in place in Germany for people travelling from the Czech Republic.

Mr Petříček said more restrictions on travel between the Czech Republic and other European states could be lifted on June 15.

Aircraft from EU countries can again land at all Czech airports

Aircraft from European Union countries can again land at all airports in the Czech Republic as of Friday. This means that restrictions limiting arrivals to airports in Prague, Brno, Ostrava, Karlovy Vary and Pardubice have been lifted, but border controls will be maintained until the end of June.

The Cabinet justified the resolution saying there is a greater threat of coronavirus spreading through airline travel than by car or railways. The government said police should carry out checks at airports in a flexible manner, in line with developments.

Israeli foreign minister accepts invitation to visit Czechia

Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabi Ashkenazi, has accepted an invitation from his Czech counterpart, Tomáš Petříček, to visit the Czech Republic. The head of Czech diplomacy made the announcement on his Facebook account on Thursday.

During a telephone conversation on Thursday evening, the two foreign ministers discussed a joint session of the Czech and Israeli governments and cooperation between the EU and Israel.

Relations between the Czech Republic and Israel cooled over a newspaper article by Mr. Petříček and two of his predecessors, Lubomír Zaorálek and Karel Schwarzenberg, published at the end of May, in which they opposed Israeli plans to annex Jewish settlements on the West banks.

MPs approve new rules for 2021 national census, drop some questions

The lower house of Parliament has approved the rules for the national census to be conducted next year. MPs added a provision to the government’s proposal, according to which Czech citizens and permanent residents could continue to indicate voluntarily whether they profess any religious faith. The bill now goes to the Senate.

The national census is held once every 10 years. One of the novelties of the next one, to be carried in late March 2021, is that people will answer fewer questions than in the past, as statisticians will obtain partial data from various registers.

The online census will last 14 days, after which surveyors will visit households in person over a 24-day period. Participation is compulsory. Only households that do not complete an online questionnaire will be surveyed in person.

Among the questions included in the 2011 national census since dropped include asking whether the household has hot water, a private bathroom, and an internet connection, and the occupants’ level of formal education.

Czech unemployment rate hit two-year high of 3.6 percent in May

The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic rose to 3.6 percent in May, up 0.2 percentage points from the previous month, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Jana Maláčová announced on Friday. At the end of last month, 266,144 people out of work, a rise of 12,104 from April.

Maláčová said thanks to state aid, employers laid off or furloughed far fewer workers than anticipated, given temporary closings of businesses due to emergency measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.

She said the majority of people who recently started looking for work had been employed mainly in the services, catering, tourism, hotel and transport sectors. Although the Czech unemployment rate is at a two-year high, it remains among the lowest in the European Union.

NHL legend Jaromír Jágr may leave Rytíři Kladno for arch rival Sparta Prague

Czech ice hockey and NHL legend Jaromír Jágr may playing for club Sparta Prague in the coming season, the daily Sport writes.

In the 2019/2020 season, which ended prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic, Jágr’s club Rytíři Kladno was relegated from the Czech Extraliga to the second division after a single season in the top flight.

For Jágr to join the arch rival of Kladno, his hometown, would be quite a coup, especially from an economic standpoint, Sport writes: Sparta can fill Prague’s massive O2 arena with help from Jágr, and Kladno would also benefit from it.

Jágr, who recently turned 48, said in March he was weighing up his future and whether it was worth continuing to play in the Czech league, leaving open whether he would retire after nearly 30 years in professional hockey.

Weather

Saturday should be partly cloudy to overcast throughout most of the Czech Republic, with highs ranging from 18 to 21 degrees Celsius on average. Sunday should be just as cloudy but slightly cooler.

05-06-2020