The Czech Republic is ready to offer the services of 300 soldiers and four Gripen fighter jets for the protection of NATO members Defence Minister Martin Stropnický announced on Thursday evening in light of the continuing crisis in Ukraine. The announcement came after NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced a bolstering of alliance country defences a day earlier, including fighter jets and sea power in the Baltic as well as the east Mediterranean. The NATO head and other top officials have sharply criticised the amassing of troops by Russia on the Ukraine border. In talks in Geneva on Thursday, Russia, Ukraine, the EU and the US agreed to steps aimed at de-escalating the situation. The steps were welcomed cautiously by the White House which is waiting to see how the deal translates on the ground.
On a two-day visit to France, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka meet with his French counterpart Prime Minister Manuel Valls. The talks focussed on the Ukraine crisis, energy security and business and trade issues. On Thursday the Czech Prime Minister was received by French President Francois Holland. It is Mr. Sobotka’s first visit to France since taking office.
The former head of the Czech Prison Service Petr Dohnal who was dismissed for incompetence by Justice Minister Helena Válková last week has filed a complaint against the decision which he says was unsubstantiated and illegal. Dohnal said Válková had blamed him for mistakes made by the previous management. The minister countered that Mr. Dohnal had made no attempt to correct the mistakes after taking office and she did not believe him capable of undertaking a reform of the prison service. The complaint will be dealt with by an expert commission.
The Labour and Social Affairs Ministry is proposing the return of a maternity grant for the birth of a second child to the tune of 10,000 crowns. Within its austerity programme the former centre-right government of Petr Nečas scrapped the state contribution for the birth of a second child, meaning that parents now only get one-off state support for the birth of their first child to the tune of 13,000 crowns. This sum is paid out to parents whose joint income does not exceed 2.4 times the minimum income. The proposal still needs to win approval in government and Parliament.
The health ministry has ordered Prague hospitals to admit patients in serious condition even if they have no spare beds. The order comes in the wake of an incident when paramedics drove a patient from one Prague hospital to another for 83 minutes before finding an institution ready to admit her. They were turned away from seven hospitals. The ministry said hospitals must be prepared to deal with emergencies and provide extra beds if necessary.
Police investigating the murder of three taxi drivers have asked potential witnesses to step forward. The murders all happened on the same day of the week and according to unconfirmed sources all three drivers were shot in the back of the head with the same weapon. In each case the killer is believed to have taken a taxi from the centre of Prague to the outskirts where he committed the murders. The case has spread fear among Prague taxi drivers some of whom are now armed. Others refuse to take passengers off the street only responding to calls from an operator.
The police chief of Uherské Hradiště, Bronislav Šabršula, is being investigated on suspicion of drink-driving, Czech Television reported on Friday. The police was alerted to the incident by another driver who reported that a vehicle ahead of him was manoeuvring dangerously on the road and its driver could be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Police found the respective vehicle parked on the roadside with the police chief fast asleep behind the steering wheel. He refused a Breathalyzer and blood test and insisted that he had not driven the car but had merely moved to the driver’s seat after having had a row with the driver who had left him in the lurch. The car’s side mirror had been smashed.
Fourteen people were injured in a bus crash on Thursday in the area of Uherské hradiště. Luckily the injuries were only minor, largely from broken glass from windows. In the crash, which took place on a main route to neighboring Slovakia, the bus was hit by a truck after it swerved from a blown front tire. The driver of the truck suffered several broken bones. The I/50, where the accident took place, had to be closed off for several hours.
Traffic police are expected to be out in force for the Easter weekend when thousands of people leave the big cities for the long Easter break. According to a spokesman for the traffic police officers plan to focus particularly on speeding, drink-driving and soft drugs. Drivers should expect heavy traffic especially on the D1 highway from Prague to Brno which is undergoing reconstruction with traffic along certain stretches restricted to one lane.
The Prague metro management has announced that it plans to close the A line of the Prague metro for extensive maintenance work over the Easter holidays. The entire stretch of the A-line will be closed from 5.30 pm Friday, April 18, until midnight Monday, April 21. Replacement trams and busses will be in operation over the long weekend.