Some one hundred, mainly elderly, clients of the troubled Czech bank Union Banka gathered on Prague's Lesser Town Square on Monday to demand their money be released from their accounts. The protesters, some of whom have their life savings in the collapsed bank, signed a petition calling for a detailed investigation, accused the bank of asset stripping and demanded compensation of up to 4 million Czech crowns. While whistling and chanting slogans such as "defend our rights" the protesters made their way to parliament, hoping to forward their petition to lower house deputies. However, instead of support from MPs, they received a fine by the police for failing to have permission to stage their protest away from the square.
Czech border police say this week-end saw a record number of Chechen refugees seek asylum in the Czech Republic. Dissatisfied with the living conditions in Polish refugee camps, some one hundred Chechens crossed the border into the country, bringing the total number of Chechen asylum applicants to six hundred since mid-April. A spokesperson for the North Moravian Foreign and Border Police said on Monday that the Czech authorities dealing with asylum applications are overwhelmed by the influx of Chechen refugees. With camps overcrowded, several cultural institutions serve as shelters for asylum seekers, some of whom even sleep in the kitchen areas.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, who is currently on an official trip to Prague, met with senior Czech politicians on Monday to lobby for a stronger Europe. Speaking in the Senate, Mr Villepin said that Europe can not depend on one power to solve the problems of the world. It is therefore necessary to actively and ambitiously focus on the future of the EU as Europe needs to be strong and speak with one voice, in order to be comparable to the United States. Referring to a letter signed in January by eight senior European politicians, including former Czech President Vaclav Havel, backing the US pro-war stance on Iraq, Mr Villepin said such examples of disagreement in Europe should serve as a lesson to the EU to take the necessary steps to avoid division in the future.
A delegation of Czech Senators from the upper house's European Integration Committee have left for London for a three day visit to discuss the Union's future after expansion. The Senators will be meeting with senior British government officials as well as representatives of the European Parliament in the UK. The Czech Republic, along with nine other countries, is expected to join the EU in 2004.
British Defence Minister Geoff Hoon said on Monday that Britain is ready and willing to help the Czech Republic attain supersonic fighter jets to replace its ageing fleet of MiG 21s. With the MiG 21s to be replaced by 2005 at the latest, the Czech government is soon to decide what jets will be used to protect the country's airspace in the future. The Czech Republic is closely considering an offer of 14 older F-3 Tornado jets, which are to be replaced in the British armed forces in the next few years. In an interview with the CTK news agency, Mr Hoon said he would discuss the issue with his Czech counterpart during his official trip to Prague on Wednesday. He is also expected to meet with Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda.
A burned corpse has been found in a graveyard in Sumperk, North Moravia. Police said on Monday that the body had been found on Friday and that they were still trying to establish the person's identity. An empty bottle of flammable liquid, a cigarette lighter and a lit cigarette were found by the body. A number of people have burned themselves to death in the Czech Republic in the last two months.
Tuesday is forecast with overcast skies and occasional rain across the country. Temperatures will be between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius.
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