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22-07-2014 17:33 | Ian Willoughby

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Zaorálek calls on Moscow to aid crash investigation and cease sending weapons and gunmen to eastern Ukraine

The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, says the Russian Federation should provide assistance to an independent investigation into the crash of a Malaysian plane in eastern Ukraine and also cease sending weapons and gunmen to the region. He said if Moscow failed to do so in a matter of days an extraordinary EU summit should adopt strong sanctions targeted at sectors of the Russian economy. Mr. Zaorálek was speaking in Brussels, where EU foreign ministers have been meeting for the first time since Thursday’s incident, in which almost 300 people died when a Malaysian Airlines flight came down in territory held by pro-Russian rebels.

Euro commissioner nominee: Prague eyeing regional policy, transport and administrative affairs portfolios

The Czech Republic has its sights on three potential European commissioner posts, the country’s nominee Věra Jourová said on Tuesday. Ms. Jourová, who has up to now been Czech minister for regional development, said the country was primarily interested in the portfolios of regional policy, administrative affairs and transport. She said she would not be involved in negotiations on her future position and was preparing for a “grilling” of candidates at the European Parliament in September.

Government nominates army chief Pavel for senior NATO post

The Czech government has approved the candidature of the chief of staff of the Czech Army, Petr Pavel, for the post of chairman of NATO’s Military Committee. Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Monday night, the Czech minister of defence, Martin Stropnický, said General Pavel had a “very solid chance” of obtaining the position, which is second only to the secretary general in the NATO hierarchy. For his part, the general said if he wins the post in a vote in mid September it will be a great honour for the Czech Republic and an expression of trust on the part of the country’s allies.

Minister unveils bill that would make national parks more accessible to hikers

A bill being prepared by the ministry of the environment is aimed at making Czech national parks more accessible to hikers, giving more powers to municipalities and simplifying regulations, Minister Richard Brabec said on Tuesday. He described the planned amendment to the law on the environment, the most extensive in two decades, as revolutionary. However, the proposed opening of zones of national parks that are now closed to the public could put represent a threat to wildlife, a representative of the Czech branch of Friends of the Earth said in response to Tuesday’s announcement.

Government report on human rights says country needs children’s Ombudsman

The Czech Republic is one of the last remaining EU states which does not have a children’s Ombudsman, according to a government report on the state of human rights in the Czech Republic. The report says that while cases relating to minors are dealt with by the Ombudsman’s Office, the institution lacks the staff and money needed to deal with the vast amount of requests for help it gets annually and children’ cases deserve priority. The Czech Republic has come under fire from international institutions for failing to give Romany children equal access to education, failing to secure the right of children from divorced families to be in contact with both parents and keeping them in children’s homes for years in order to protect the rights of their biological parents.

Černý loses appeal against paying damages to ex-National Gallery chief over insult

Sculptor David Černý must pay a former director of the Czech National Gallery, Milan Knížák, CZK 100,000 in damages for defaming him in a Czech Television interview. The Prague Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal lodged by Mr. Černý, upholding a previous decision it made. The artist also has to pay Mr. Knížák’s court costs. Mr. Černý used abusive language to describe the then National Gallery head in an interview for a 2011 documentary on an award for young artists. Mr. Černý caused controversy with a sculpture for the 2009 Czech presidency of the EU that was considered offensive by some member states.

Man charged with death of homeless man “over 350 crowns”

Police have charged a man with an attack on a homeless man in Prague that resulted in the latter’s death. The accused, who is 34, faces a charge of grievous bodily harm resulting in death in connection with the incident, which occurred near the Hradčanská tram stop in Prague 6 on Monday, and faces up to 16 years in jail if found guilty. The motive for the attack, in which the victim was beaten and kicked, was a debt of CZK 350, a police spokesperson said.

Police charge man over hit and run injury of six pedestrians

Prague police have filed charges against a foreign man who drove onto a pavement in central Prague at the weekend, seriously injuring six pedestrians. The man, who is 26, then fled the scene. He has been charged with failure to provide assistance, endangerment while under the influence and bodily harm; if found guilty, he could face up to eight years in prison. The incident occurred on the city’s Hybernská St at 6:30 AM on Sunday. The driver abandoned his car but left personal documents in the vehicle.

Storms batter south-western Bohemia

Storms and heavy rain complicated traffic and flooded cellars in many parts of the country, particularly in south-western Bohemia. Rail traffic between Prague and Mariánské Lázně was disrupted for several hours on Monday night and fire crews worked around the clock clearing away uprooted trees and pumping water from cellars. In some places the rain amounted to 67 liters per square meter, causing flash floods which temporarily closed down the lobby of Prague’s Mustek metro station. The ABC theatre in Prague was flooded for the third time this year.

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