News Ceremony held to mark anniversary of 1948 Communist takeover
Around 300 people gathered on Prague’s Old Town Square on Tuesday evening to mark the 66th anniversary of the Communist takeover of power in Czechoslovakia. People holding candles formed a circle around the square in order to pay tribute both to the thousands of victims of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia and to the recent victims of violence in Ukraine. On February 25 1948, President Edvard Beneš accepted the resignations of 12 non-Communist government ministers and names replacements put forward by Communist PM Klement Gottwald, bringing an end to democracy in the country for over four decades.
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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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Former president Václav Klaus told the Czech News Agency on Wednesday that he had voted against the Czech Republic's EU accession in a referendum on joining held in 2003. The Czech Republic joined the EU on May 1, 2004. Mr Klaus is a well-known eurosceptic who hardened his view over the years, nevertheless there had been speculation about his vote. Klaus said after the first integration period during which the EU "tried to liberalise itself, it had strayed from its path and now it was heading towards unification and centralisation". Mr Klaus has suggested the upcoming 10th anniversary needed to be marked but not celebrated.
Emergency ambulances will, in several weeks, be required in all cases in Prague to drive patients to the nearest hospital. The country’s health ministry will issue the order after reaching agreement with emergency services after a woman suffering poisoning last year was transported for over an hour after being refused by seven facilities. All three teaching hospitals in Prague as well as number of other hospitals including Na Bulovce and Motol, fall under the ministry. The ministry is urging other Prague hospitals and facilities in central Bohemia to reach a similar agreement. In several weeks, a new electronic system monitoring available beds will also be launched, also covering emergency or urgent cases.
In the NHL playoffs on Wednesday, the visiting Montreal Canadiens edged the
Tampa Bay Lighting 5:4 in overtime. Tomáš Plekanec scored for the Habs in
the first period to tie the game at one apiece.
In other hockey news, the new coach of the national Czech squad Vladimír Růžička has said he will hold a spot open on the roster for star player Jaromír Jágr at the upcoming Ice Hockey World Championships. He made clear he was not pressuring the 42-year-old to take a final decision yet on whether he will play at the tournament next month in Belarus. Jágr’s New Jersey Devils failed to make the NHL playoffs this season, leaving the 42-year-old Czech able to play if he feels fit. Jágr and the national team coach were both part of the squad that won gold at the Nagano Olympics in 1998.