A memorial to mark the tragic death of three Czech ice hockey stars kicked off in Prague on Thursday. In the afternoon, hundreds of people gathered at the square, where a makeshift shrine of flags, Jerseys and tricolor flags had been assembled during an impromptu gathering on Wednesday night. Czech ice hockey player Patrik Eliáš was among those who lit a candle in memory of the victims of Wednesday’s plane crash, in which 43 people were killed, among them the Czech players Karel Rachůnek, Josef Vašíček and Jan Marek.
A Yak-42 plane came down shortly after take off from the Russian city of Yaroslavl on Wednesday and burst into flames. The players were taking off for Minsk for the first match of the season. Among the 43 victims were Russian and European hockey players. Only two passengers survived and are in critical condition with severe burns.
In related news, the Czech embassy in Moscow received preliminary confirmation from Russian authorities that the bodies of Czech ice hockey stars Karel Rachůnek and Jan Marek had been identified on Thursday. The two, along with the Czech hockey star Josef Vašíček, were among the victims of Wednesday’s crash of a Yak-42 plane in which 43 people were killed. The Czech embassy is working to ensure that the bodies of the Czech crash victims be returned to the country as quickly as possible. According to Russian media, emergency response teams have been working at the site of the crash to identify the victims’ bodies; in roughly half of the cases, victims’ identities were confirmed.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Thursday that the European Union was prepared to assist Egypt with the organization of democratic elections in the country, should Egypt explicitly ask for help. The statement followed a meeting between Mr. Schwarzenberg and his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr, who is currently on an official visit in Prague. Mr. Amr added that Egypt had prepared a detailed plan for its transition to democracy, with elections scheduled for November. He is set to be received by President Václav Klaus on Thursday, who has stressed that on account of historical reasons, the Czech Republic should focus on aid to Egypt’s transition to democracy following the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak.
The Czech government on Thursday passed its new security strategy, which emphasizes security issues especially in the area of energy infrastructure. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that this was an aspect that had previously not been a priority, but was becoming increasingly significant. Along with the diversification of energy sources, the security of oil and gas pipelines in the country, as well as nuclear and other plants, are of utmost importance, the prime minister said. According to the country’s updated security strategy, the political and economical security of the EU is a key factor for maintaining national security.
Hundreds of police officers will be deployed to the towns of Varnsdorf, Rumburk and Šluknov in North Bohemia on Saturday, when members of the far-right Workers Party for Social Justice are planning to hold a gathering as well as a march. According to a police spokeswoman, clashes between police and extremists at such gatherings in the region have taken place in the past and have to be prepared for. Czech police will be working together with their German colleagues, since the region is located near the Czech-German border and some German citizens may attend the event. Some 200 to 300 people are expected to participate in the march and party gathering. In recent weeks, ethnic tension between Romanies and the majority population in North Bohemia has been building up. In late August, an improvised rally against Romanies took place in Rumburk, when around 1,500 people gathered in the town’s square to protest what they called “rising crime levels” but what was in reality a protest against a series of attacks by Romanies on ethnic Czechs.
A statue honoring the late American president Woodrow Wilson was re-installed at Prague’s main train station on Thursday. The original monument, built in 1928, was torn down by the Nazis in 1941. Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda, as well as the mayor of Prague 1, Oldřich Lomecký, attended the re-installation of the statue and placed a bronze tube containing historic documents inside the body of the statue. The project, which was initiated by the American Friends of the Czech Republic, took several years to complete. The official unveiling of the statue is scheduled to take place October 5, with President Václav Klaus and foreign guests such as Madeleine Albright set to attend.
Police are investigating a shocking incident of road rage. According to the daily Právo, a 36-year-old driver collided with a public transportation bus in the Domažlice region after attempting a risky overtaking maneuver. Following the accident, the aggressive driver turned up at the depot and beat the 63-year-old driver of the bus brutally. The man, who suffered serious head injuries, is currently being treated in hospital. Within hours of the accident, his condition worsened seriously and he was transported from the local hospital to Plzeň.
The aggressive driver drove off from the site of the incident. When police arrested him later, he first denied any violence on his part and claimed that the conflict was merely verbal. Since then, according to the daily Právo, he has admitted to violence and said that he regrets what happened. He was released and is being prosecuted for inflicting grievous bodily harm.
Four were killed in a collision of a passenger car with a truck on a highway in the Hradec Králové region on Thursday morning. The 28-year-old driver of the passenger car was taken to hospital with serious injuries. The two vehicles collided at a stretch were the road takes a slight bend, then slid off the highway and crashed into a ditch. Police are investigating the case.
A recently born baby girl was placed into a baby box in the Moravian city of Ostrava on Wednesday. Doctors examined the abandoned child and found that she is in good health. She has been named Milena. She is the 56th child in the Czech Republic to be placed in a baby box since they were introduced in the Czech Republic in 2005. Currently, there are 44 such boxes across the country.
A baby giraffe of the rare Okapi breed was born in the Dvůr Králové nad Labem zoo in the Hradec Králové region late on Wednesday night. The animal is the second okapi to be born in the zoo, which is the only one in the Czech Republic that breeds these rare animals. The first specimen had been born in September 2008. The zoo is broadcasting live footage of the okapi baby on the web pages of Czech Radio.
Conditions over the coming days are expected to remain overcast with scattered showers and daytime highs of around 19° Celsius.