A Swedish court of appeal has confirmed an arbitration ruling ordering the Czech Republic to pay the Bermuda based company CME 355 million US dollars for failing to protect its foreign investment in the private television broadcaster TV Nova. CME financed the setting up of the Czech Republic's most successful private station in 1994, but was pushed out of the business several years later by TV NOVA head Vladimir Zelezny, sparking a series of court battles and international arbitration cases. Meanwhile, on Thursday Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka gave the go-ahead for the money to be transferred to CME from an escrow account.
Vladimir Zelezny, the head of TV NOVA, who is being widely held as 'morally' responsible for the lost arbitration, was sacked by shareholders just hours before the Swedish court ruling. The station's new owners said they were merely protecting their interests since Mr Zelezny had generated negative publicity and had become a liability. Mr Zelezny said he accepted the decision "in view of the damaging campaign led against TV Nova and himself." The station's programme director Libuse Smuclerova and financial director Petr Chajda will jointly run TV Nova until a new director can be appointed.
The head of the country's counter-intelligence service, Jiri Ruzek, and the head of the National Security Office, Tomas Kadlec, tendered their resignations on Thursday, government spokeswoman Anna Starkova has announced. The spokeswoman said she had informed the prime minister about the decisions, saying the government would discuss ensuing steps at its next meeting to find possible replacements. Until then both Mr Ruzek and Mr Kadlec will remain in their posts. It has been speculated that the two men's decisions to give up their posts reflects turmoil within the Social Democratic Party. The Social Democrats are the senior member in the country's three-party ruling coalition.
Police are still searching for the anonymous blackmailer who has threatened to poison hospital food with cyanide. Over the past week the blackmailer made several anonymous calls to the police - using toll free emergency lines - and threatening to poison hospital canteen food unless he receives 300 million Czech crowns. Strict security measures are in place at all Czech hospitals, especially hospitals in Prague, where two containers with poison have already been found. The deadline by which the money was to be delivered expires today.
Police say a 29 year-old woman will be charged with attempted double murder after she opened fire Thursday morning on two reporters at a radio station in the northern town of Usti nad Labem. One of the reporters, aged 27, was hit in the chest, and is in serious condition awaiting surgery. The other reporter, aged 25, was wounded in the arm. Police have not released information about a possible motive. The assailant allegedly shot her way into the station through a glass door, and more people might have been injured had the attacker's pistol not jammed. The attacker was then subdued by another radio employee, before police arrived.
The Temelin nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia is suffering further technical difficulties: after the plant's first bloc had just returned to full power following problems with the cooling system, the test run of the plant's second bloc second block had to be reduced to under 40 percent and then just 5 percent on Thursday following an electrical complication in the bloc's generator. An inspection team is investigating the cause of the problem. Temelin's first bloc has been undergoing a test-run since June 2002, whilst the 2nd bloc entered its test-run period just last month. Experts at the plant have prepared for higher technical difficulties this year than the country's other nuclear facility Dukovany. Temelin spokesman Milan Nebesar has indicated that it took between two and three years before the technology there was optimally synchronised.
Friday is expected to be partly cloudy with a chance of clearing and periods of sunshine. Daytime temperatures should reach highs of 18 degrees Celsius.
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