News Czech army planes to airlift Ukrainian injured to Prague hospitals
Two Czech army transport planes will take 27 severely wounded Ukrainian demonstrators to Prague for treatment on Thursday. The youngest of the injured to be airlifted from Kiev to one of two Prague hospitals is around 17 years old. He was shot in the legs and could face amputation. Arrangements for the transport have been made in the Ukrainian capital by a six person team from the Czech charity People in Need. They have drawn up a list of another 70 people who could be brought to the Czech Republic if funds are forthcoming. The Czech government decided to release 10 million crowns for the humanitarian airlift on Wednesday.
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Meanwhile the head of the Karlovy Vary regional and member of parliament Josef Novotný has said he will hang onto both posts in defiance of the Social Democrat Party instructions. Novotný said it is a plus for the region that he is also a member of parliament since it gave him access to other elected members and ministers. He added that the party’s position was discriminatory and that there is nothing in the Czech constitution preventing the accumulation of different political functions.
Czech president Miloš Zeman will host a two day conference in Prague starting Thursday on the European Union’s relations with states from the former Soviet Union, the so-called Eastern Partnership. At least nine presidents are scheduled to take part, including those of Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Ukraine’s acting foreign minister Andrii Deshchytsia is also expected to attend. The Eastern Partnership was created five years ago with the then Czech presidency of the European Council a major impulse behind the move.
Top Social Democrat Michal Hašek has decided to give up his seat in the lower house of parliament and continue as the head of the South Moravian Region. Hašek was forced to choose between the functions by party instructions preventing politicians from occupying more than one significant post at the same time. Hašek, who is also the chairman of the Association of Regions, has seen his position in the parliamentary party plummet following a failed bid to oust party leader Bohuslav Sobotka after last October’s parliamentary elections. Several other members of the lower house must also choose whether to keep their seats or drop other functions within the next days.
Czech foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek will fly to Beijing China on Sunday for a three day official visit, the first by a Czech minister for 15 years, the government announced on Wednesday. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the visit was a mark of the government’s desire to reset relations with China. He pointed out that major European countries like Germany, France, and Britain had not let human rights issues get in the way of developing much better relations than those enjoyed by the Czech Republic. Zaorálek said relations with China have been at freezing point and that had stalled trade, export and other deals. China was looking at the possibility of establishing a technology park, probably in Moravia-Silesia, which would focus on high value added production, he added.
Police have launched criminal proceedings against the mayor of Ústí nad Labem and two members of the city council’s executive for abuse of third party property. All three are members of the Social Democrat (ČSSD) party with one, Zuzana Kailová, also a member of the lower house of parliament. Police are asking for her immunity from prosecution to be lifted. The case centres on a private company which won a 5 million crown contract to welcome new citizens to the city. It was found to have only spent a total of 600,000 crowns on cheques to the newcomers.
Most Czechs have sex for the first time before they are 18, according to survey results announced Wednesday by the Prague based Sexualogical Institute. Results from the previous study held five years ago found that Czechs were 18 or over when they had their first sex. The latest results showed that 42 percent of couples relied on condoms during their first sex compared with only a third doing so in 2008. The biggest source of information about sex, for a third of women and over a third of men, were friends and acquaintances. Researchers pointed out that these were not always the most accurate source of information.
The Czech Hydrometeorological Office has warned of severe storms hitting the Moravia-Silesia, Olomouc, and Zlín regions on Wednesday. Rainfall could total up to 3 centimetres in place. The storms are predicted to die out during the late evening but further storms are predicted across the country in the coming days.
The Czech Republic’s biggest retailer of natural gas, RWE Czech Republic, said on Wednesday that it had halted the erosion of its customer base last year. RWE said it increased gas sales to 37.6 TWh from 37.0 TWh and attracted back customers with new offers. The company announced a profit of 10.5 billion crowns on turnover of 53.6 billion crowns, though the results are not comparable with previous years because of the sale of its gas pipeline company NET4GAS and other changes. It made a loss of around 16.7 billion in 2012. The company said it is consolidating its position as the biggest alternative electricity supplier by attracting a quarter of all the customers switching suppliers last year.
More than 300 Czech bookshops were on Wednesday offering 15 percent reductions on their prices as part of a campaign to cut Value Added Tax on books. The Association of Czech Book Sellers and Publishers has welcomed the government’s proposal to cut the current 15 percent VAT rate on books to 10 percent but says that it still believes that the right rate should be 5 percent. The association says a 10 percent rate would still leave the Czech sales tax on books higher than in most other European countries.
The Czech football association has given up on the idea of making a bid to co-host the European Championships in 2020. The final nail in the coffin for the bid was the refusal of Prague’s City Council to sign up to an agreement between it, the association, and European football’s governing body, UEFA. Prague city councillors said they were afraid Prague would have had to cover costs of the event if there were problems and complained that the football association had not been in contact over the previous three months. The Czech football association had been hoping that proposals to enlarge Prague’s Eden stadium would make it eligible to host some of the European championship games which UEFA wanted to share between 13 cities.