The Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, released a statement on Sunday on the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, saying the threat today was no longer from “allied” military forces but an “invasion” of radicalism, extremism and hatred. The prime minister said in the near future extremism could threaten freedom and democracy.
In 1968, Soviet-led troops crushed the period of reforms in Czechoslovakia known as the Prague Spring, ushering in so-called ‘Normalisation’ period that only ended with the fall of Communism in the country in 1989. Five Soviet-bloc armies crossed into Czechoslovakia shortly before midnight on August 20, 1968, totaling 100,000 troops, 2,300 tanks and 700 planes. Eventually occupying troop levels would reach some 750,000. During the tragic days that followed the invasion more than 100 people died.
A new poll conducted by the SC&C agency has suggested that only 15 percent of Czechs consider the controversial Mašín brothers “heroes”. The Mašíns - Josef and Ctirad, the later of whom died recently in the US at the age of 81 and is to be buried there with military honors this week – led a group of resistance fighters and saboteurs in Czechoslovakia who were fiercely opposed to the totalitarian regime. They killed three communist police officers – one of them after he was subdued – in the 1950s in preparation for their dramatic attempt to leave the country and three East German police during their actual escape to West Berlin in 1953. In the survey, almost two-thirds of respondents said they did not believe the Mašíns deserved any honors for their deeds; 27 percent said they considered members of the Mašín group “criminals”.
To date, the Mašins have been recognised for their bravery only by former prime minister Mirek Topolánek, although the current prime minister, Petr Nečas, has repeatedly praised the group’s bravery. Last year at the funeral of group member Milan Paumer he slammed criticism of their escape – one of the most dramatic in the Cold War. This week Ctirad Mašín – in memoriam – and his brother Josef will be presented with the military honour the Golden Linden – conferred by the Czech defence minister, and former Czech ambassador to the US, Alexandr Vondra.
Some 400 people from 21 towns and villages in the area of Šumava held a “happening” on Sunday expressing support for the management of Šumava National Park. The team, including the park’s head Jan Stráský, has come under fire from ecological activists for commissioning logging in protected areas of the park to fight the spread of bark-beetle infestation. For weeks this summer activists have chained themselves to trees marked for felling to try and disrupt the process, charging the logging is illegal.
On Sunday, dozens in the demonstration signed a petition calling on the prime minister and other politicians to stabilize the situation in the park in light of the current stand-off. They called activities by eco-activists “a farce” and also slammed the manner in which some media have been reporting developments.
Civic Democrat MP Boris Štastný, the co-author of anti-smoking legislation in the Czech Republic, will reportedly submit a proposal to the lower house in the autumn banning cigarette smoking in Czech restaurants by 2014. Since July last year eating and drinking establishments in the Czech Republic have to have designation whether they are smoking, smoke-free, or have designated smoking areas. Polls from early this year suggested that almost half of the population was in favour of a complete ban on smoking in restaurants ,while around one-third was against.
The legendary Spanish tenor Placido Domingo received turbulent applause and a standing ovation on Saturday night for his performance on the final evening of the 20th International Music Festival in Český Krumlov. He performed with Puerto Rican sopranist Ana María Martínez. More than 7,000 saw the show - Placido Domingo’s first in the Czech Republic in 17 years. The famous singer, who was one of the Three Tenors with José Carrera and the late Luciano Pavarotti, was accompanied by the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra. The programme included arias and duets from operas by Verdi, Puccini and others.
Sunday is the final evening at this year’s Trutnov Open Air Music Festival and will see performances from bands like the Romanian group Fanfare Transilvania, the Czech-Brazilian project N.O.H.A. – Circus Underground and J.A.R. One of the biggest fans of the festival, former president Václav Havel, was unable to attend this year for health reasons but greeted fans on a line that was patched over the speakers, saying he regretted he couldn’t be there. This year’s festival was headlined by the famous US singer, musician and songwriter Iggy Pop.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych was forced to retire from the semi-final of the Cincinnati Masters after dropping the first set 7:5 to Novak Djokovic. The player’s retirement from the match, the first at the tournament since 1977, came two days after the player aggravated his shoulder in a doubles match. The Cincinnati Masters match against Djokovic is Berdych’s sixth semifinal loss this season.
Mostly clear skies are expected into the new week: daytime temperatures on Monday should reach highs of around 28 degrees Celsius.