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18-03-2014 18:33 | Ian Willoughby

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PM: Russia’s treatment of Ukraine unacceptable but no risk for Czech Republic at present

The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, has described Russia’s actions in connection with Ukraine as unacceptable. In an interview for the Czech News Agency, Mr. Sobotka said he believed sanctions could be imposed on Russia but added that he was not currently in favour of them. The PM said he and the other members of the leadership of the state’s Security Council had considered possible risks stemming from the situation in Crimea and concluded that for now no special measures needed to be taken. Mr. Sobotka said the only positive step the Russians had taken was not advancing beyond Crimea further into southeastern and eastern Ukraine.

Ethnic Czechs in Volyn province ask Czech Republic for help

Several dozen ethnic Czech families from the Volyn province in Ukraine have asked the Czech Interior and Foreign ministries for help in repatriation to the Czech Republic. The so-called Volyn Czechs expressed concern over tension between Ukraine and Russia which has escalated in recent weeks, leading up to the possible annexation of Crimea. The Interior Ministry confirmed it had received a request for aid. Ethnic Czechs settled in the Volyn area in the second half of the 19th century; some returned to Czechoslovakia after WW II, most often to areas of the Sudetenland formerly inhabited by ethnic Germans who were expelled after the war. Others returned after the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia after 1989.

Official calls for removal of new memorial to fallen Russian soldiers at Prague graveyard

A Czech official has called for the removal of a memorial to fallen Soviet soldiers that was unveiled at Prague’s Olšany Cemetery last month, the news website echo24.cz reported on Tuesday. Igor Zolotarev, who is deputy chair of the government’s council for national minorities, said the sign, which is in Cyrillic script, was a mockery and a desecration of the nearby graves of those who had fled the Bolsheviks. The memorial pays tribute to fallen “internationalists”, which Mr. Zolotarev said was a term that also included Russian soldiers who had provided “international brotherly assistance” to Czechoslovakia by invading the country in 1968. The Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Prague, which is behind the sign, says it was supported by the Czech Defence Ministry, the Senate and Prague Town Hall, but all three have distanced themselves from this claim.

PM Sobotka promises Council of Europe to address discrimination against Roma

The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, has promised that his cabinet will deal with the issue of discrimination against the Roma minority in the Czech Republic, the news site novinky.cz reported. Mr. Sobotka made the pledge in a reply to a letter the government received from the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Nils Muižnieks, who called for action to halt a growing number of anti-Roma demonstrations. The Czech leader said his cabinet would stand up to all forms of violence, hostility and discrimination, including “anti-gypsyism”. Mr. Sobotka said the government was preparing a national strategy on Roma integration that would be in place until 2020.

Minister fires official over handing out of gold as gifts

Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has dismissed the director of the State Printer of Securities, Richard Bulíček. In a news release issued on Tuesday, the minister said he and Mr. Bulíček had diverging views on efficiency and thrift when it came to substantial gifts. The newspaper Lidové noviny last week reported that in the last five years given out as presents 10g gold ingots worth some CZK 4.7 million. Mr. Babiš had previously questioned why Mr. Bulíček had been unable to furnish him with a list of those who had received the ingots.

Police uncover large amount of metal believed stolen from Czech rail system

Czech police uncovered nearly 3,800kg of metal that they believe was stolen from the country’s rail system in a nationwide operation aimed at combatting such theft, spokesperson Martin Hrinko said on Tuesday. Twelve people were arrested. The metal found by the police was taken from tracks, stabled carriages and even the interiors of trains, officer Hrinko said, adding that scrap merchants in many cases deliberately had premises adjacent to railway depots.

Poll suggests third of Czechs believe 1989 changes did not “pay off”

A third of Czechs believe that the change of political system in 1989 did not “pay off”, suggests the results of a survey conducted by the CVVM agency quoted by the news website iDnes.cz. Sixty-three percent of respondents agreed with the statement that the replacement of the Communist government had “paid off”. Thirty-four percent of those surveyed said the changes had brought about more benefits than losses; a quarter of respondents expressed the opposite view. Over 1,000 people were questioned for the opinion poll last month.

Mayor Hudeček will head TOP 09 candidates list in Prague communal elections

Prague Mayor Tomáš Hudeček will head the candidates list for the centre-right TOP 09 in communal elections in the autumn, the party’s leadership announced on Monday. Hudeček edged the head of the party’s Prague branch Jiří Vávra by three votes. The decision on who to nominate was preceded by heated debate, the Czech News Agency reported; the 1st spot on the list, if successful in the election, would deliver Mr Hudeček the mayoral seat. In recent days, some TOP 09 members pushed for national party leader Karel Schwarzenberg to head the list, but the former presidential candidate and former foreign minister declined.

Joan Baez set for Prague return with Lucerna show

Joan Baez will perform at the Grand Hall at Prague’s Lucerna on October 16, the promoter of the concert has announced. The US folk singer, who is 73, has performed several times in the city since the fall of Communism. She has a number of connections with this part of the world, including a long-term friendship with the late president Václav Havel, whom she first visited in 1988, and was a vocal supporter of Czechoslovak dissidents.

Czechs to host US in soccer friendly ahead of Euro 2016 campaign

The Czech Republic will host the United States in a friendly soccer international in Prague on September 3. It will be the Czechs’ last warm-up game for their qualifying campaign for the 2016 European Championship in France, which begins against the Netherlands six days later, also in the Czech capital. Manager Pavel Vrba said he had chosen the US because Jurgen Klinsmann’s side played a similar attacking style to the Dutch.

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