Ukraine's former economy minister Bohdan Danylyshyn has been granted political asylum in the Czech Republic, Radio Liberty has reported, citing his lawyer. The decision to grant political asylum was taken by the Czech Interior Ministry. Mr Danylyshyn is now awaiting a ruling by a court in Prague regarding his release from custody. Ukraine's former economy minister, who served in the government led by former prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from 2007 to 2010, was put on the state and international wanted list in August 2010. He was detained in the Czech Republic at Interpol's request in October. Ms Tymoshenko and her party then appealed to the Czech government with a request to grant him political asylum. This week, the Prague City Court again refused to release Mr Danylyshyn on bail, as Czech authorities feared that he might flee the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic's Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra has said the Czech Republic is planning to sell 36 subsonic L-159 airplanes it no longer needs. On Thursday he confirmed that the military is currently negotiating a possible sale of the Czech-made planes with two countries, one of them Iraq. He declined to give more details. According to Mr Vondra, the ministry hopes to earn more than two billion crowns this year by selling the planes and other property. The defence ministry has had to cope with significant cuts in funding this year as part of austerity measures the government says are necessary to reduce the budget deficit.
The Ministry of Justice has announced a shake up of the way it appoints judges with competitions for vacant posts being held in the future in which all qualified contenders can take part. Minister of Justice Jiří Pospíšil announced the changes at a meeting of the lower house of parliament’s legal committee. One of the conditions for candidates will be at least five year’s experience of legal practice but the significance of psychological tests will be downplayed under the proposal. The minister said that the country was now in a new position with only around 30-40 vacancies for judges needing to be filled every year instead of the previous 100 or so annually. Quality, not haste, was now the byword for selection, the minister said.
The daily Mladá fronta Dnes claims to have acquired evidence that the security agency ABL, formerly owned by Transport Minister Vít Bárta, spied on senior Civic Democrat politicians in the course of 2007. The daily said it was ready to produce photographs, video recordings and other documents to prove its claims. The newspaper first released information on the case in September of last year, starting a police investigation. The transport minister who sold the security agency - including its detective service - to his brother before taking office, gave the prime minister his solemn pledge the agency had not spied on politicians. The police have asked to see the new evidence.
Tripartite talks between the government, the unions and employers on Thursday failed to produce a consensus on planned changes in health care, namely a closer definition of standard patient care – as covered by insurance companies – and higher quality service for those willing to pay extra, whether for brand-name medicines, materials or other services. The division between standard and extra care is a key component in the government’s planned reforms. But those have so far been rejected by the unions; on Thursday the chairman of the ČMKOS union, Jaroslav Zavadil, said that additional funds for the sector needed to be found and should be a priority but he charged the government’s cost-cutting measures came at the expense of patients.
The Czech Republic’s biggest automaker Škoda Auto will have to reconsider whether or not to assemble vehicles at the GAZ assembly plant in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, a representative at Škoda Mladá Boleslav has said. Despite initial interest, Škoda Auto may back away from a deal after the Russian government approved new measures on car assembly. The GAZ plant was originally meant to produce 160,000 Volga sedans per year but stopped after two years due to low demand. The plant then reached agreement with the Daimler concern for the production of 25,000 Mercedes Sprinter models and has been in negotiations with GM and Volkswagen (of which Škoda is a part). GAZ is seeking an agreement on the production of new vehicles by the end of February. Volkswagen has said it will have to analyse the new conditions for car assembly in Russia before it reaches a final decision.
Interior Minister Radek John has said he will strengthen the police unit in the town of Nový Bydžov in the Hradec Králové region in the case of heightened crime incidence. The minister made a statement on Thursday after meeting with Mayor Pavel Louda and regional police chief Petr Přibyl. Since last autumn, Nový Bydžov had claimed a rise in crime by Romany residents, which led more than 3,000 local non-Roma to sign a petition for security to be increased.
Tensions among the population reached a peak last November following the rape of a young woman. In response, the town hall issued a highly controversial statement regarding the local Roma community and said it would hire the services of a private security agency. The interior minister has tried to defuse tensions by saying that such a solution was not a good idea. He also pointed out that the statistics had not actually shown an increase in crime. Mr John, the local police chief and the mayor did agree local crimes needed to be properly investigated and prosecuted swiftly.
Business webpage Ekonom.cz has reported that the British broadcaster BBC World Service has applied to the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting to prolong its license for its English broadcast to the Czech Republic. The current license for the VHF broadcast – which includes a minimum of six hours in Czech, supplied by Czech Radio’s Rádio Česko – expires in 2012. The move has come as something of a surprise; it was thought that the BBC might cancel its broadcast to the Czech Republic under extensive cost-saving measures, the council’s chairwoman Kateřina Kalistová said. Under Czech legislation, the BBC only had until January 8th to apply for the license to be extended. The Council for Radio & TV Broadcasting has not dealt with the request yet, but Mrs Kalistová said in cases where requirements were met, prolongation of the licence was practically automatic. The new license will last until 2025.
Specialists at the Hydrometeorological Institute have warned that water levels on the Berounka, Sázava and Labe rivers are expected to rise throughout Thursday due to continuing rainfall and melting snow. Last weekend, mid to high-level warnings were in effect in the Plzeň, Karlovy Vary and Ústí regions; alerts remain in place in Plzeň and Ustí and meteorologists are continuing to monitor developments. Smaller rivers and streams are also expected to rise, as milder conditions have set in. It is expected to rain through to Saturday.
Czech racer Josef Macháček is in third place in the quad category at the Dakar Rally. He finished fifth in the eleventh stage of the gruelling competition on Wednesday, four minutes behind leader Jorge Santamarina of Argentina. In the overall standings, he is two hours and forty-five minutes behind the race leader Argentina’s Patronelli. Fourth place racer Copetti is three hours behind Macháček.
More rainfall is expected into Friday with cloudy conditions throughout the day. Temperatures are expected to reach between 6 and 9 degrees Celsius.