News Czech defense minister visits Czech contingent in Mali
Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnický on Friday visited the Czech contingent in Mali deployed there within the EU military training mission in the country. The Czech military has 34 soldiers in Bamak and four more specialists at the military base in Kati. They are helping train the Mali Armed Forces. The government is expected to decide in the coming days whether to extend the mission’s mandate and expand the number of troops to 50.
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The lower house of Parliament on Wednesday backed draft legislation introducing a third VAT rate. If approved, the proposal, put forth by the government, would establish a 10-percent VAR rate that would apply to books, medicine and baby food, as of January 2015. The Czech Republic currently has two VAT rates, 21 and 15 percent, respectively. The government believes a third, 10-percent rate would lower the prices of the selected goods and support families with children. Opposition leaders criticized the plan as hypocritical, and instead suggested the existing VAT rates should be lowered. A final vote on the proposal in the lower house is scheduled for later this week.
The Czech government is not planning to repatriate ethnic Czechs from Ukraine, Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek told reporters during his visit to the country. Mr Zaorálek is visiting the Czech community in Zhytomyr on Wednesday to address their concerns over the security situation in Ukraine. In March, some 40 ethnically Czech families asked the Czech authorities for assistance with relocating to the Czech Republic, a plea recently backed by President Miloš Zeman. But Minister Zaorálek said members of the Czech community in Ukraine could use existing channels to repatriate. An estimated 5,000 Czechs live in Ukraine where their ancestors settled in the 19th century.
Fresh Film Fest, an annual event focused on young directors and debut works, gets underway in Prague on Wednesday. The festival is showcasing around 100 feature length and short films and takes place at a number of venues in the city, from regular cinemas to an anchored boat on the River Vltava. The 11th edition begins with a screening of Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin at the Světozor cinema.
The situation in Ukraine should be resolved by a diplomatic treaty between Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and the US based on the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Czech Chamber of Deputies said in a resolution passed on Tuesday evening. The lower house held a session on the matter at the instigation of the Civic Democrats, who wanted Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka to clarify his position on sanctions against Russia. Mr. Sobotka reiterated that he doubted their effectiveness. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said he would discuss humanitarian aid to Ukraine on a visit to the country on Wednesday.
Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine are reported to have entered the Czech consulate in the eastern city of Donetsk on Sunday. The diplomatic office has been closed since June. Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council said on Twitter that what it called terrorists were continuing to capture buildings and that the Czech and Polish consulates had been affected. The Czech Foreign Ministry said, however, that the separatists had looked the building over before leaving it. Meanwhile, pro-Russian rebels were reported to have briefly detained Czech Radio journalist Vít Pohanka near the consulate.
An exhibition of photographs taken by American Paul F. Goldsmith in Prague during the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia is being held in the city. Then a student, Goldsmith was touring Europe in August 1968 and found himself in Prague when the tanks rolled in; on leaving the country he gave his photographs to the AP news agency in West Germany and they were soon seen around the world. He is due to attend Tuesday evening’s opening at the café Krásný ztráty. The exhibition runs until November 9.
The Czech movie Fair Play has been placed on a long list of nominees for this year’s European Film Awards. Written and directed by Andrea Sedláčková, Fair Play explores doping in sport in the final decade of the communist era. It is among 50 films from 31 European countries in contention for various prizes; nominations will be announced in November ahead of an awards ceremony in Riga the following month.
Former tennis star Nicole Vaidišová is set to return to the sport later on Tuesday when she takes part in the first round of an International Tennis Federation tournament in the US city of Albuquerque. The one-time world number seven, who is 25, retired four years ago saying she had lost her love of tennis. Vaidišová said coming back would be a lot harder than starting out in the first place, describing the move as a step into the unknown.
Almost 1,400 illegally held weapons have so far been handed in to the police as part of an amnesty that began in July and runs until the end of the year. However, Milan Prchal of the police’s weapons and dangerous materials department said at a news conference on Tuesday that going by previous experience a larger influx of weapons could be expected towards the end of the six-month period. Most of the arms handed in so far date from WWII, though one person in Brno handed in a quarter of a kilogramme of the explosive Semtex.
In an appeal hearing, a Prague court has increased Roman Janoušek’s jail sentence for grievous bodily harm to four and a half years. In April the controversial businessman had been sentenced to three years in connection with an incident in 2012 in which he knocked down another driver with whom he had become involved in an altercation. He fled the scene and later failed a breathalyzer test. Tuesday’s verdict cannot be appealed. The hit-and-run came days after a newspaper published transcriptions of wiretaps giving the impression that Janoušek held strong influence over politicians and officials in Prague.