News President calls Ukraine conflict civil war
Czech President Miloš Zeman told commercial radio station Frekvence 1 that he considered the conflict in Ukraine a civil war, not a Russian invasion. In an interview which was taped ahead of the NATO summit in Wales this week, the president also said he believed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when he stated there were no Russian soldiers on the ground in Ukraine. The president took a similar tack at the summit itself, drawing criticism on Thursday from the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. The president’s statement, according to the Czech News Agency is at sharp variance with statements made by NATO leaders as well as Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and the country’s defence minister, who have said that some 5,000 Russian soldiers, according to their information, were fighting in eastern Ukraine.
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At least 30 people were injured when two express trains collided in a station at Horažďovice in south-western Bohemia on Tuesday. A spokesperson for Czech Railways said the last two wagons on a train travelling from Plzeň to České Budějovice were derailed, slamming into a stopped train going from Plzeň to Brno. Seven ambulances and three helicopters were sent to the scene of the accident.
A second investigation in the case of jailed ex-politician David Rath has come to an end, state attorney Jiří Pražák said on Tuesday. The police should hand the case file to the state attorney’s office in the coming days. The investigation concerns companies suspected of involvement in the manipulation of public tenders in the Central Bohemian Region, of which Mr. Rath was governor. The police have already charged 10 people, including Mr. Rath, in connection with the allegations, which relate to eight firms. The former Social Democrat minister of health recently received an eight and a half year jail term and was stripped of CZK 20 million after being found guilty in a linked case.
A group of Czech non-governmental organisations working with migrants say that rules governing asylum seekers should be changed to allow them to reach Europe safely and ask for protection, iDnes.cz reported. This would thwart human traffickers and help save lives, they say. In a statement, the consortium of 18 NGOs said that those whose lives were in danger should have easier access to humanitarian visas and an increased chance of reuniting with family members. Around 1,000 illegal migrants have been detained in the Czech Republic since checks were stepped up in mid-June and the issue of asylum has been attracting increased attention.
This year’s Prague Pride LGBT festival is set to offer around 120 events, including concerts, discussions, film screenings and theatre performances, organisers said on Tuesday. The week-long event, now in its fourth year, will culminate in a traditional parade through the centre of the city on Saturday August 15. Festival director Kateřina Saparová told journalists that Prague Pride would make a bigger effort to also attract heterosexuals this year than in the past.
Leaked data from the International Association of Athletics Federations revealed at the weekend suggesting a high level of drug-taking in the sport also concerns Czech athletes, the website of the UK’s Daily Mail reported. Seven percent of Czechs tested between 2001 and 2012 had suspicious blood samples, it said. Responding to the claim, the head of the Czech Olympic Committee’s anti-doping section, Jan Chlumský, said it was not possible to say at the present time in what way the results had been abnormal. The chairman of the Czech Olympic Committee, Jiří Kejval, criticised the publication of the records; he said media reports on the subject had been sensationalist and that drawing conclusions on the basis of partial results was highly unsound.
The decision of the Czech president, Miloš Zeman, to attend events in China in September marking the end of World War II in the Pacific means the Czech Republic will be the only European Union state to ignore a proposal from Brussels for an EU-wide boycott of the celebrations, Hospodářské noviny reported on Tuesday. A Czech foreign ministry spokesperson told the newspaper that its officials had had to reject a coordinated EU position due to Mr. Zeman’s plan. It is not clear whether the Czech head of state will attend a military parade in Beijing. EU representatives are reportedly staying away from the anniversary events due to tensions between China and Japan and because Russia’s President Putin will be in attendance.
The Czech government is preparing the sell off of dozens of excess buildings held by various institutions and authorities. Around 20 state institutions have been told to submit their lists of non-required property by September. Around 600 properties are believed to fall into the category with earnings from their sale estimated at around 2 billion crowns. One of the first properties likely to be sold is a former seminary at Vidnava near the Polish border. It was initially earmarked for use by the prisons service but development plans were eventually shelved.
Czechs stand out as the members of the European Union with the most negative view of immigration from outside the EU according to a survey carried out for the European Commission. Eighty one percent of Czechs perceived immigration from outside the EU negatively, the highest figure in the EU 28. Latvia and Greece followed with 78 percent each and Slovakia with 77 percent. Sweden stood out as the sole country where immigration from outside the EU was viewed positively with two-thirds of respondents saying they were in favour. Across the EU, 34 percent said they were positive about immigration of people from outside the EU and 56 percent were negative about it. The overall figures have changed little since the last survey in the autumn. Surveys were carried out in May and the results published at the end of July.
Deputy chairwoman of the upper house of parliament, the Senate, Miluše Horská, has said she is optimistic that funds will be found to buy up and close a pig farm at the site of camp where Roma were interned and died from 1942. The comments came during an annual commemorative event near the site of the Lety camp where hundreds of Roma perished due to disease and ill treatment. The closure of the pig farm has been a subject of debate for years. Last year Minister of Culture Daniel Herman promised that the question would be resolved. The director of the Lidice memorial, who also has responsible for the Lety memorial, pointed out Monday that the issue is not just a question of money to buy out the farm, estimated at sever hundred million crowns, but also the demand of the owner for a new site and suitable for the farm to be found nearby.
The state budget surplus in the first seven months of the year climbed to 25.7 billion crowns from 22.6 billion a month earlier, the Ministry of Finance said on Monday. The figure is a record for July since the creation of the Czech Republic in 1993. At the same time last year, the state surplus stood at 4.5 billion. Two main factors contributing to the level of the recent surplus are around 50 billion extra in incoming EU funds and around 12 billion in extra social contributions.