Czech President Václav Klaus has voiced concern over what he sees as a growing perception of the Czech Army as an expeditionary force rather than a national defence corps. Speaking at a meeting of army commanders on Thursday, Mr Klaus said the organisation’s structure, outfitting and traditions were beginning to correspond to that image, held both inside and outside the army, to the detriment of its primary, domestic, role. The president believes that the recent scandal involving Nazi symbols worn by Czech soldiers in Afghanistan is a direct result of this popular conception of the army as “the special units that we know from action films”. Prime Minister Jan Fischer later said that there was no intention of the Czech Army resigning on its current missions. Mr Klaus’ comments he said were intended as a warning that the army view its duties comprehensively and not focus solely on foreign missions.
The Czech head of state is also the commander in chief of the country’s armed forces. Czech soldiers are currently involved in larger-scale missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Police Thursday morning raided an office of the Ministry of Defence and arrested three ministry employees suspected of possessing and disseminating child pornography. The suspects were released after questioning but remain under investigation. Prague Police spokeswoman Iva Knolová said the arrests were a continuation of “Operation Vilma”, the largest operation against child pornography ever carried out in the Czech Republic, which resulted in 160 arrests and the confiscation of 350 computers during October. Possession of such material carries a sentence of two years incarceration, dissemination, six years.
Authorities have closed a secondary school in the West Bohemian town of Cheb where more than a third of the students are suspected to have come down with the H1N1 swine flu virus. Random testing among the school’s 730 pupils confirmed the virus in three of them. Up to 270 students show symptoms, however. The region is one of those with the highest incidence of swine flu cases in the Czech Republic. In related news, a 31-year-old leukaemia patient infected with the H1N1 swine flu virus died in hospital in Prague on Thursday. According to a hospital spokeswoman, the patient was already in critical condition and that the flu played no role in her succumbing to cancer.
A prison escapee is dead and his wife severely injured after a shoot-out with the police. The couple was hiding in a small village near Strakonice, southern Bohemia. The 43-year-old man died on site while his wife was severely injured; she was taken to a hospital in Plzeň in critical condition though doctors say she is now out of danger. An autopsy carried out on the man has reportedly revealed that his head wound was not caused by a police weapon.
The safe-breaker and repeat offender was sentenced to five years earlier this month. His wife helped him escape during a trip to the hospital on Tuesday after she opened fire on his guards.
Two Czechs who were detained in Cuba in March for causing a fight at Havana airport have been sentenced to eight months in prison, most of which they have already served. Zdeněk Tovara, 25, and Jaroslav Jiřík, 32, were arrested for public disorder, damaging property and resisting arrest. The two reportedly arrived at the airport intoxicated and reportedly caused damage to airport shops with a baseball bat after scuffling amongst themselves and shouting obscenities about the Cuban communist leadership. The men will be deported upon release in late November. The Czech consulate and defence attorneys said they were pleasantly surprised by the professionalism and attitude of the Cuban prosecutor’s office.
The threat of a transit strike in Prague was apparently averted Thursday afternoon as trade union officials reached a preliminary agreement with the municipal government’s crisis team. The details of the agreement were not revealed, however both the unions and Prague mayor Pavel Bém are reportedly satisfied with the course of negotiations. The Prague transport authority’s trade unions have demanded, among other things, that the city cover the company’s operational loss of 1.9 billion crowns, or more than 112 million US dollars.
Fire-fighters in the east of the Czech Republic were called out nearly two dozen times Wednesday night as rains flooded cellars around the region of Moravo-Silesia. River levels abated over the course of Thursday and there is no imminent risk of further flooding. Heavy flooding at the end of June in northern and central Moravia caused 14 deaths, hundreds of evacuations and more than 6 billion crowns in damages.
A survey published by the polling agency STEM suggests that a majority of Czechs consider the Velvet Revolution to be significant not only to today but in the whole of modern Czech history. Perception of the event differed widely in the poll among different political sympathies, with supporters of the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party more reluctant to assess the events of 1989.According to the poll, most people are also of the opinion that the Civic Forum’s 1990 slogan “Back to Europe” has been fulfilled. 43 percent of people believe that the post-revolution era is among the best in Czech history.
Conditions in the Czech Republic over the coming days are expected to be partly cloudy with scattered showers and highs of around 10° Celsius.