Russia's Foreign Ministry called in the Czech Republic's acting ambassador on Thursday to protest against a visit to Prague by the "self-styled" Foreign Minister of breakaway Chechnya. A Ministry statement said that "Ilyas Akhmadov and his meetings were construed as gross interference in Russia's internal affairs". The statement also said that the visit is seen as effectively aiding and abetting terrorists operating on the territory of the Russian Federation. "Prague must surely understand that such unfriendly acts will prompt a corresponding reaction from the Russian side" read the document. Without elaborating, it added that Akhmadov's visit would inevitably affect future relations. Last week, the Russian Foreign Ministry also protested against a trip to Paris by Akhmadov.
The Czech Foreign Ministry on Friday morning, rejected Moscow's protest. A spokesman said that Ilyas Akhmadov is a member of the Chechen administration and while there is some criticism in Prague over Russia's campaign in the region, his visit does not indicate that the Czech Republic disputes Russian territorial integrity, He added that Akhmadov visited Prague in a purely private capacity as the guest of Czech non-profit organisations. Russian troops have been bombing Chechnya for the past seven weeks to crush Islamic guerrillas. Chechnya has been largely outside Russia's control since 1991 and claims independence, but Moscow insists it must stay within the Russian Federation.
Czech President Vaclav Havel on Thursday called on world leaders to safeguard democracy in Yugoslavia. Speaking in Istanbul, at a press conference, where he is taking part in a security summit of the Organization for Security and cooperation in Europe, he also criticized the Russian campaign in Chechnya. Havel said the international community should do everything in its power to make Yugoslavia a democratic state and promote its return to the family of European democracy. The Czech President added that the summit was an initiative where world leaders could meet and discuss vital issues with Yugoslav representatives. As far as the conflict in Chechnya is concerned, Havel said Russia cannot protect its integrity in this violent way, nor can it hope to fight terrorism.
This comes after Russian President Boris Yeltsin on Thursday walked out of talks with French and German leaders, leaving Istanbul earlier than expected. The 54 nation two day summit is focusing mainly on the conflict in Chechnya. On Friday, Vaclav Havel is expected to make a speech before leaving for Prague.
Czech Premier Milos Zeman has eventually commented on Wednesday's call by former students for Czech leaders to resign. Zeman dismissed the appeal, at a conference, on Thursday, publicly telling one of the activists that politicians only step down as a result of poor election results and not because a particular group calls for their resignation.
This comes after a group of student leaders from 1989, gathered on Wednesday to sign a petition calling for the current post-communist leaders in Prague to step down, saying the political situation had again stagnated. On Thursday, Milos Zeman also insulted the activists, telling them their request was "juvenile" pointing out that his government has cut unemployment and increased wages.
Vaclav Klaus, leader of the main opposition, Civic democratic Party, the ODS, also dismissed the appeal, in a similar reaction, saying the petition does not deserve much attention. He said he could not possibly agree with the activists, that a change of political leaders is needed. Leader of the Freedom Union, opposition party, Jan Ruml, said the petition is legitimate and justified.
Head of the opposition Christian democrat party, Jan Kasal also commented on Thursday that the petition is to an extent justified, since many of the ideals of the Velvet Revolution have been lost over the last ten years. He told journalists that the grievance must be taken seriously and that he personally understands the activists' disappointment and bitterness.
Former Head of the Christian Democrats, Josef Lux is still said to be very ill. Doctors have described his condition as serious. Lux, who is suffering from leukemia, underwent a bone marrow transplant at the end of September in America. His condition worsened almost two weeks ago, when he contracted pneumonia.
On Thursday, in Prague, Danielle Mitterrand, the widow of former French President Francois Mitterrand criticized the Maticni Street wall in a Czech town, separating Czechs from their Romany neighbours. At the close of her visit to Prague, she said that although the Berlin wall which was a symbol of the iron curtain had fallen ten years ago, there are still walls separating people in the world today. Referring to the controversial Maticni Street wall, she said it was impossible to segregate people in this way. The wall, which is expected to be removed by the end of this year, has been widely criticized both at home and abroad. There are fears that it could pose a threat to the Czech Republic's bid for membership of the European Union. During her visit to the Czech Republic, Danielle Mitterand met with leading Romany and government officials for talks on the position of minorities living in the Czech Republic. She has been in Prague on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution and collected the Order of the White Lion in memoriam for Francois Mitterrand.
Czech justice Minister Otakar Motejl had a car accident on Thursday morning on a bridge in Prague. After being taken to hospital with pains in his ribs, doctors sent him home to recover. A spokesman for the Prague police said they should know the reasons for the accident on Friday and at the same time, ruled out the possibility of the minister driving under the influence of alcohol.
The public opinion agency STEM has released the results of a survey carried out at the beginning of November, according to which the communist party has the most support among Czechs. The agency said the findings showed that 22 % of people would vote for the communists, just ahead of the Civic democratic opposition party. Researchers say that the Social Democrats would come in third, with almost 15% an improvement of three percent compared to October's results.
Analysts at the agency have said however, that most communist supporters are unlikely to actually go to the polling stations, almost certainly leaving victory to the Civic democratic party. Findings also showed that 53% of Czechs would go to vote, 28% are undecided and 19% in theory would not go at all. This is the second agency to come up with the result that the communists are in first place.
On Thursday, former British Prime Minister was symbolically presented with the golden key to the gates of Prague. She later signed the golden book which all visiting dignitaries sign when they attend similar ceremonies. She came to Prague earlier in the week to attend the celebration of the fall of communism ten years ago. The head of the lower house of Parliament Vaclav Klaus said on Wednesday that Margaret Thatcher had played a key role in the demise of communism a decade ago.
Dutch investment bank, Delta Lloyd has ended its investments in the Czech state controlled utility CEZ. This comes after environmental groups raised questions about CEZ's refit of Temelin, a controversial nuclear power plant. The nuclear facility, which will generate about 20% of Czech electricity demand, is expected to go on line in mid-2000 with a U.S. control system fitted to its 1970s Soviet design. The plant has drawn sharp criticism from Austria, since it lies only about 100 Km south of Prague. Senior Austrian politicians have sought to tie the Czech Republic's admission to the European Union with the scrapping of the Temelin plant.
Vaclav Klaus, leader of the opposition Civic democratic party the ODS, said on Thursday that the Czech Republic is definitely entering a period of economic revival. Speaking at a conference called "10 years later - on the threshold of a new millenium" he said this was the result of clearly defined political parties and the success of Czech post-communist transformation. Klaus who used to be Czech Premier in the mid-nineties added that he has become a scapegoat of the transformation, a role he said he is proud to accept and play.
Friday will see a cold start to the day, with temperatures ranging from -1 to -5, with cloudy overcast skies. There could be snow towards the evening, with temperatures overnight dropping to as low as -8 in the mountains.
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