News Czech president expresses opposition to Russian intervention in Ukraine
Czech President Miloš Zeman has expressed opposition to Russia intervening in Ukraine; in a statement issued through his spokesman on Saturday, the president suggested military intervention would create a gulf that would take more than a generation to bridge. Mr Zeman was reacting to rising tensions in Crimea, where Russian forces are stationed or being boosted. He made clear he could draw on concrete experience, the invasion of former Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led troops in 1968. On Saturday, President Vladimir Putin requested - and received - approval from Russia's upper house to use troops on the peninsula until the 'normalisation' of the political situation in Ukraine. Mr Putin claimed that such a move was to protect the Russian-speaking population. Ukraine's new leadership has called Russia's behaviour an attempt to provoke an armed conflict.
The Czech Foreign Ministry reacted on Saturday by saying that Ukraine's territorial integrity as well as sovereignty needed to remain untouched and intact. The foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, is to meet with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka to discuss developments on Monday.
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The Czech Statistical Office on Saturday began a four month long survey which should shed a lot of light on Czech living standards and quality of life. Questionnaires will start to be delivered to around 11,000 families on February 6. They will ask about housing conditions, education, childcare, and work. The survey will last until June 5. Replies will be anonymous.
The Czech weather office has issued a warning of high winds for the east of the country on Sunday. Winds of up to 90 km/hour on lower ground and up to 130 km/hour on mountain peaks are expected with the danger of falling trees and branches. The warning covers the Zlín, Olomouc, and Moravia-Silesia regions and lasts until 2300 hours on Sunday.
Up to a thousand protestors are expected by the organisers of a demonstration against Islam and immigrants in the centre of Prague on Saturday afternoon. At the same time demonstrations have been called by those opposing xenophobia and racism. The anti-Islam demonstration in Prague is part of a series of demonstrations organised in Europe and even Australia. Prague police have called in reinforcements from the Ústí region ahead of the events. Some embassies have warned their citizens to stay away from the centre of Prague.
A two-day celebration of the Chinese year will take place at Prague’s exhibition grounds, Holešovice, starting Saturday. The event is being staged for the second year by the Czech-Chinese chamber. It will feature Chinese cinema, calligraphy, crafts, and sampling of Chinese cuisine.
In ice hockey, the trainer of club Kometa Brno Alois Hadamczik resigned Friday evening after a 1:6 defeat against struggling Litvinov. It was the seventh defeat in the last eight matches. Brno had been tipped at the start of the season as one of the club’s with the biggest chances of winning the league. Hadamczik is a former coach of the Czech national team.
A second group of Christian refugees from Iraq arrived in the Czech Republic on Friday. The 17 Iraqis, comprising four families, follow a group that arrived here almost two weeks ago. Over 150 more are due to resettle in the country in the coming weeks. The Iraqis come from the city of Mosul in the north of the country, which has been taken over by Islamic State.
The number of acute respiratory illnesses in the Czech Republic grew by 10 percent this week while flu cases increased by over 50 percent, according to figures released on Friday. Seven people have died of the flu. One official said an epidemic was developing around virtually the entire country but was so far regional in nature. Central Bohemia and Moravia Silesia have been among the hardest hit parts of the Czech Republic.
A court in Norway is expected to receive on Tuesday a petition from the Czech state to be allowed to participate in a case involving a Czech woman whose two sons were put up for adoption against her will. The government says it wants to employ a Norwegian legal mechanism under which it would defend the public interest in the case. However, no state has ever taken that role and it is not clear whether the court will permit it to do so. Eva Michaláková’s appeal against losing her parental rights is due to be heard in the last week of this month.
Ai Weiwei is set to officially open an exhibition of his Zodiac Heads at Prague’s National Gallery on Friday evening. The Chinese artist and activist on Thursday covered the statues, which were erected last weekend, in gold-coloured emergency survival blankets, in what may be a reference to Europe’s migrant crisis. Ai said he was aware there was opposition in the Czech Republic to the acceptance of refugees, which he found surprising. He also referred to Václav Havel, describing the late Czech president and human rights champion as a great thinker. The exhibition is part of celebrations of the 220th anniversary of the National Gallery.
MP Petr Gazdík of the Mayors group has called on Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka to apologise to the United States after the Czech authorities freed a Lebanese man Washington wished to extradite. The opposition parties TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats have called for a lower house debate on the circumstances surrounding the release of Ali Fayad, who was wanted in the US on suspicion of supporting terrorism. The American ambassador to Prague, Andrew Schapiro, expressed shock over the move, which he said could harm cooperation between the two states’ law enforcement agencies and encourage criminal groups and terrorists. Mr. Fayad’s release came after five Czechs released in Lebanon last year were freed.