News NATO chief Rasmussen to visit Prague next week
The general secretary of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is to pay a visit to Prague next Thursday. He is expected to hold talks with Czech government representatives on the further participation of Czech troops in a NATO mission in Afghanistan and summit of the military alliance that is due to take place in the Welsh city of Cardiff in September. NATO’s current mission in Afghanistan concludes at the end of this year, and talks are underway to extend it until 2016.
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Over 700 Czech soldiers are due to take part in the multinational military exercise Saber Junction 2014 at the training grounds in Hohenfels, Germany starting on Sunday. The ten-day exercise will bring together close to 6,000 servicemen from 17 NATO-member countries for a wide range of military operations. During theoretical and practical training soldiers develop skills in tactics, logistics, intelligence, evidence collection and other areas.
A man suspected of an acid attack against his ex-girlfriend has been placed in custody awaiting trial. The judge ruled in favour of custody for fear that the suspect, who had been living under a false identity and had no employment would try to flee the country. The man attacked his ex out of revenge, shortly after she broke up with him. She suffered serious burns to her face and arms and remains in intensive care. If convicted her attacker could face up to 12 years in prison.
Speaking ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on Saturday the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, called for a political solution to the Ukrainian crisis. He pointed out that the mutual implementation of sanctions between the EU and Russia had done nothing to stop the violence in Ukraine and the situation was fast spiraling out of control. The Czech prime minister said the EU must initiate political negotiations with Russia before resorting to broader sanctions in order to break the circle of threats and violence. In this connection Mr. Sobotka criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for further escalating the tension by reminding the world that Russia was a nuclear power.
Czech actor Petr Šporcl, a member of the South Bohemian Theatre in České Budějovice has died at the age of 72 following a long illness. The actor, the father of well-known violinist Pavel Šporcl, performed over a hundred roles over his theatre career including Horatio in Hamlet and Mitch in A Streetcar named Desire.
Police in the eastern city of Ostrava arrested two suspects, a 42-year-old man and 35-year-old female partner, believed to have sold five kilograms of heroin for more than 1.4 million crowns. The two are well-known to police and both have criminal records. They reportedly bought the drugs in Prague before reselling them in Ostrava and surrounding areas. Police have not ruled out additional arrests in connection with the case.
The Czech Republic is considering sending a military contingent to the Golan Heights this year, Defence Minister Martin Stropnický told reporters on Friday. There may be room for new troops in the mission there in October as the Philippine military is considering withdrawing its personnel. Czech President Miloš Zeman has long supported the idea of deploying Czech soldiers to the Golan Heights. The defence minister said he wanted to discuss the matter with the president and indicated he was not sure whether the Czech Republic would be able to prepare the contingent at such short notice. The deployment of troops would have to be approved by the government. According to the Czech News Agency, the military has a so far taken a reserved stance towards the plan, in part for financial reasons.
The Czech Foreign Ministry on Friday called on Russia to immediately withdraw its troops from Ukraine, to stop artillery attacks from Russian territory and to halt deliveries of military equipment to pro-Russian rebels. The ministry also called for independent monitoring of the border between Ukraine and Russia to be allowed. The ministry said the operation of Russian armed forces in eastern and southeastern Ukraine was a serious threat to peace and stability in Europe. It stressed that steps taken by Russia went against international law and also undermined statements that President Vladimir Putin made at a recent summit in Minsk where he said he sought a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis.
Euro MPs for TOP 09 Luděk Niedermayer and Jaromír Štětina, along with former ministers for human rights and the environment, Michal Kocab and Martin Bursík, have called on the Czech Republic to block visas for Russian citizens supporting the Putin regime. In a written statement, the four appealed to the Czech government to take a principled stand on Russia in light of the most recent developments in Ukraine, referring to a new invasion by Russian forces, reported on Thursday. Along with visa bans, the four made clear that, in their view, the Czech government needed to offer Ukraine material and military help. Social Democrat Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, also reacting to developments in Ukraine, told news website iDnes that the Czech Republic would back a greater NATO military presence at the alliance’s eastern borders.
A group of seven Czech soldiers departed for Turkey on Friday to take part in Operation Active Fence, NATO’s integrated anti-missile defence system in place in Turkey as protection against Syrian missiles. The latest departure of Czech military personnel to the region, where they also served in the first half of last year, was confirmed by the spokeswoman for the General Staff of the Czech Army on Friday. Czech personnel are serving in a number of other international missions, including in Afghanistan and Mali.
Czech football league champions Sparta Prague reached the group stage of the Europa League on Thursday, with a 3:1 second-leg win over Zwolle – a score of 4:2 on aggregate. Sparta, the last Czech club in European competition after exits by Plzeň, Liberec and Mladá Boleslav, drew first blood and scored two more to take a commanding 3:0 by the 63rd minute. Zwolle converted a penalty in the 83rd minute to get the consolation goal. In the next round, Sparta will compete in Group I, against Napoli, Slovan Bratislava and Switzerland’s Young Boys.