News Foreign Ministry warns Czechs not to travel to eastern Ukraine and Crimea
The Czech Foreign Ministry has warned Czech citizens not to travel to eastern Ukraine and Crimea in light of growing tensions in the area; those already there have been advised to depart. The crisis in Ukraine escalated as unidentified Russian forces took full control of Crimea - where Russia's Black Sea fleet is based - ignoring Ukrainian sovereignty on the pretense they were there to protect Russian-speakers. In response, Ukraine called up its reserves and ordered full combat readiness for troops, raising the stakes in the growing stand-off.
World leaders, including US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, have condemned Russian intervention in Crimea as a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and a breach of international law. But Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, has thus far ignored calls for troops to withdraw to the base in Sevastopol. In a phone call with the US president, he reportedly stressed that Russia would act not only in Crimea but in the east of Ukraine, if necessary, to protect its interests. Mr Obama had issued a warning in a press conference on Friday that there would be costs if Russia continued on its current course.
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Czech tennis player Lucie Šafářová has reached the women’s doubles finals at the Australian Open. Together with US partner Bethanie Mattek Sands cruised to an easy 6:0 win against German opponents Julie Görges and Anna-Lena Grönefeld before the pair conceded. In the final the Czech-American pair will face Taiwan’s Yung-Jan Chan and China’s Jie Zheng.
The Czech Republic’s biggest car maker, Škoda Auto, is preparing itself for tougher times and a downfall in demand in spite of its record breaking year in 2014. The company is reported by the daily Mladá Fronta Dnes on Wednesday to be preparing a programme whereby hundreds of workers will be transferred and become contract workers for external companies. The move, affecting up to 800 workers, is part of an organizational shake up under which Škoda Auto focuses on manufacturing cars and other activities are spun off to external companies. Unions say they are prepared to strike over the move.
Nine people were injured when a train collided with boulders which fell on the track during a landslide near Semíly in north-east Bohemia. The train driver was the worst casualty and was helicoptered from the accident scene to the hospital at Liberec. Accident investigators said he had no chance to brake the train in time. The line is expected to be closed for the whole day.
Bavarian police say they intercepted 15 kilogrammes of pervitin which traffickers tried to pass across the Czech border last year. That total is down by half compared with the total intercepted in 2013, but around the same levels as 2012. But German police say the intensity of drugs being shipped across the border has not diminished. Rather, the hike in pervitin seizures in 2013 resulted from a massive police clampdown on trafficking that year.
Police in Hradec Králové, have concluded an investigation into an incident at a hospital in the East Bohemian city in which new-born babies were given wrongly mixed medicine that almost caused their deaths. Three babies were given a preparation containing several times the prescribed amount of the barbiturate phenobarbital at the turn of August and September last year. A police spokesperson said the babies had been saved by the timely intervention of a doctor at the hospital. The case was first treated as a serious criminal act but investigators concluded it had been due to accident.
The minister of justice, Helena Válková, says she wants to introduce reforms within a maximum of four years that will make the Czech justice system cheaper and more effective. Minister Válková outlined her vision in a meeting with the new chairman of the Supreme Court, Pavel Šámal; he told journalists afterwards that the most important issue surrounding the reform would be the number of courts of first instance. Justice Šámal said some such courts were very small and created problems both in terms of staffing and the exercise of justice.
Scores of survivors and dozens of chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of European parliaments attended a ceremony honouring victims of the Holocaust at the former Terezín concentration camp in Central Bohemia on Tuesday. The event was timed to coincide with a ceremony at Auschwitz marking the 70th anniversary of its liberation. The Nazis transported up to 100,000 Jews from Terezín to Auschwitz and other death camps between 1940 and 1945, while around a fifth of those interned in Terezín met their deaths there.
The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, has expressed strong opposition to the kind of joint military action against Islamic terrorism proposed on Tuesday by President Miloš Zeman. In a statement, Mr. Zaorálek asked whether a “crusade” should be launched, and if so against whom and where. “Against Jihadist groups from Senegal to Somalia, against Libya, Yemen or Pakistan? Nonsense!” wrote the minister. Mr. Zaorálek said Muslims needed to take a leading role in curing the cancer of radical Islamic ideology. He said Arabs in particular should demonstrate that murder and terror are not the true face of Islam, adding that he did not believe in further Western military intervention in Syria, Iraq, or “God knows where”. Earlier Mr. Zeman had warned of a “super-holocaust” leaving hundreds of millions dead if Islamic State was not stopped.
A famous villa on Prague's Kampa is set to become the Voskovec and Werich Arts and Social Centre in honour of the great Czech actors Jan Werich (who lived there) and Jiří Voskovec. It will be operated by the Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation. The authorities in Prague 1 voted on Tuesday to rent the Werich Villa to the organisation for CZK 600,000 a year on a 10-year contract with the option of another 10-year term when the first comes to an end. The future of the building had been the subject of speculation since 2002, when it was damaged in flooding.
Prague councillors have approved a possible return to paper long-term public transport passes that would start in March. The paper passes could be introduced if the city loses licenses for the Opencard electronic card system that was brought in to replace them. Opencard contracts signed by previous Prague governments are reported to have been overpriced. Mayor Adriana Krnáčová said last week that the city was prepared to introduce paper passes in order to avoid being forced to pay for new licenses under pressure of time. The operator of the service, eMoneyServices, has called for a stabilisation of the situation. Otherwise, it said, it would demand the city settle all its debts to the firm.