Defence Minister Martin Stropnický on Thursday paid a morale-boosting visit to Czech troops in Afghanistan, following last week’s suicide bomb attack which killed five servicemen. According to military sources the minister thanked the troops guarding the Bagram military base for their good work and discussed the practical aspects of their service in the wake of heightened attacks by Taliban insurgents. The minister also brought messages of support that people sent the Czech unit in the wake of the tragic incident. It took a tragedy of such proportions for people to come to appreciate and admire their servicemen’s great courage, the minister told the troops. For security reasons, information about the minister’s visit was only released on Friday.
Five replacements for the soldiers killed in last week’s suicide attack also flew out to Afghanistan on the special flight from the Czech Republic on Thursday. The five will be given three-days of special training at the Bagram air base before taking up their duties. Around 150 Czech soldiers are tasked with patrolling the perimeter of the massive base with the main goal to stop rocket attacks being launched on it. The Czech contingent has been particularly successful in the past in collecting information about possible attacks.
The funerals of two of the Czech soldiers were due to take place on Friday. Full military honours were given for 39-year-old corporal Jan Šenkýř at Hradec Králové in the morning. He was promoted in memorium to rank warrant officer. Around 1,000 people attended the ceremony. The funeral of 19 year old corporal Libor Ligač was due to be held not far away at Týniště nad Orlicí on Friday afternoon. Funerals of the remaining two soldiers still have to take place.
Czech Airlines has confirmed that it had changed the flight paths of all its eastern-bound flights in order to avoid Ukraine’s airspace following the downing of a Malaysian plane that killed close to 300 people on Thursday. A spokesman said all late night Flights on Thursday and all flights on Friday had been rerouted though some may take slightly longer as a result of the changed route. Passengers have been advised to contact information.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said Friday that no Czechs appear to have perished on the Malaysia Airlines Boeing B777. There was uncertainty surrounding around 40 names whose nationalities were not yet known, he said, but it appeared that no Czechs had been on board the flight from Amsterdam but 100 percent certainty was not possible. Zaorálek said Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine should give immediate access to independent accident investigators and that relatives of the deceased should also be allowed to the crash site if they wanted. Those were arguments in favour of an immediate ceasefire in the ongoing conflict, he added.
The two ringleaders of a gang whose kidnapping of wealthy Czechs sometimes ended up with murder have been given life sentences by a Prague court on Friday. Michael Šváb and Libor Skopalík were given life sentences for their roles in the five-man gang. The court heard how they picked their targets from rich Czech businessmen when they were abroad. One of the targets though was said to have been killed in the Dubai desert after being suffocated and hit on the head with a stone. Another businessman was shot in Italy after being first abducted in Nice. Members of the gang were said to have met in prison where they planned their future actions after they were released.
Former leader of the Green Party and ex minister of the environment Martin Bursík has announced he has been selected to by the centre-right TOP 09 party to stand for the Czech Upper house, the Senate. Bursík said he had been backed by Prague 1’s executive committee to stand in spite of the fact that he is a member and founder of another environmental party, LES. TOP 09 deputy chairwoman Helena Langšádlová said that Bursík was both a democrat and pro-European in explanation of the support. The Senate seat which will be contested in the autumn is currently held by Civic Democrat Zděnek Schwarz.
Temperatures climbed on Friday to above 30 degrees Celsius in many parts of the Czech Republic with even hotter weather and temperatures of up to 33 degrees Celsius expected on Saturday. One of the hottest spots is expected to be Southern Moravia. The heat spell has been accompanied by fire warnings, especially in the south of the country. The hot weather is expected to break on Monday night when heavy storms are predicted.
Czech league and cup double winners Sparta Prague take on Viktoria Plzeň in the Czech super cup on Friday night in the traditional curtain raiser to the league season. Sparta go into the game keen to follow up from their mid-week 7:0 demolition of the Estonian champions in the first leg of the Champions League qualifier. Viktoria Plzeň will be looking to avenge in particular the costly mistakes against Sparta that robbed them of their chance of winning the cup at the end of last season.
Czech football clubs Slovan Liberec and Mladá Boleslav both won the opening legs of the Europa League qualifying games on Thursday night. Slovan Liberec beat Slovakia’s Košice 1:0 away and Mladá Boleslav bet Bosnia and Herzegovinian club Široki Brijeg 2:1 at home. Both matches were goalless at half time. The return legs will be held in a week’s time.
My Prague – Rob Cameron
Agencies abuse Czech visa system in Ukraine to fuel booming illegal business
Hockey legend Jaromír Jágr turns 45
Marie Iljašenko: a European poet
New documentary celebrates Czechoslovak war hero, RAF pilot Emil Boček
Jan Antonín Baťa always said he put his people first, says granddaughter Dolores Bata Arambasic
Academic Michael Smith: Czech govt. is supporting education of well-off through “free” universities