News Rapid calming of situation in Ukraine paramount, says Zeman
The Czech president, Miloš Zeman, says the rapid calming of the situation in Ukraine is of key importance. In a statement issued via his spokesperson on Sunday, Mr. Zeman said he awaited the formation of a new government and regarded the preservation of the country’s territorial territory as paramount. The Czech head of state’s invitation to Mr. Yanukovych to visit Prague in April now applies to the country’s highest representative, not directly to Mr. Yanukovych himself, the spokesperson said.
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The Czech Republic’s Energy Regulatory Office has asked the European Commission to review proposed changes to the country’s energy legislation, a spokesman for the regulator said on Wednesday. The Energy Regulatory Office believes the proposal, tabled by Social Democrat MP Milan Urban), is in breach with EU law as it could establish unequal conditions for participants in the energy market. Mr Urban rejected these claims, and said his amendment sought to overhaul the structure of the regulator and reform the methods of price-setting decisions.
The Czech government on Wednesday approved an extension of the lease of Swedish Gripen fighters for the Czech Air Force, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said. The lease for 14 Jas-39 Gripen aircraft was extended until 2027 with a two-year option; the Czech Republic will pay around 16.5 billion crowns for the deal. Under the new lease, the fighter jets will receive enhanced ground attack capabilities; Sweden will also train 25 Czech pilots and 90 ground personnel during the duration of the contract. The Czech Republic first leased Gripen fighter jets in 2005 amidst allegations of bribery and corruption.
The chief of the Czech army’s general staff, Petr Pavel, has warned that the military is seriously underfunded. Addressing a conference in Prague marking the 15th anniversary of the country’s accession to NATO, General Pavel said the army was below sustainability levels; if the situation is not promptly addressed, the army will lose some of its capabilities, according to the chief of the general staff. This year, the Czech military is set to receive around 43 billion crowns which is some 12 billion less that it needs, according to army officials.
Two Prague restaurants, the Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise and the Alcron, have retained their Michelin stars, according to the 2014 edition of the Michelin guide to Europe released on Wednesday. Both restaurants first received one Michelin star in 2012, a rating they retained last year as well. No other eatery was added to the prestigious list this year; however, five Prague restaurants – Divinis, Aureole, Sasazu, Aromi and Sansho – received the lower Bib Gourmand rating this year from the French company.
Czech President Miloš Zeman on Wednesday marked the 15th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s membership of NATO. Addressing a conference at Prague Castle, Mr Zeman criticized the country's low defence spending, and said the ongoing crisis in Ukraine would speed up the establishment of a joint EU defence force. A special guest at the Prague conference is former NATO Secretary General George Robertson, who led the security alliance during the Czech Republic’s first years as a member. Czech Minister of Defence Martin Stropnický wrote on Wednesday that NATO membership was the main Czech goal after the collapse of communism and was a significant and symbolic sign that the country had been accepted as part of the West. The Czech Republic joined alongside Poland and Hungary at a ceremony in Independence, Missouri.
The US House of Representatives has passed a resolution recognising former Czech president Václav Havel’s contribution to the fight against communism, to the Velvet Revolution of November 1989, and entry of the Czech Republic into NATO. The resolution will also result in a bust of Havel joining those of a select few foreign and US leaders in the Congress building. Only three foreign statesmen have previously received such recognition. Havel was already awarded the US’ highest civil award, the medal for freedom, in 2003.
In ice hockey, Czech coach Miloš Řiha has unexpectedly been sacked from his job as trainer of the Continental League team Avangard Omsk. The Russian team said that Řiha did not turn up to lead the team’s training session on Monday. Řiha said that he was ill. The Czech trainer moved to Omsk after leading HC Pardubice in the 2012-2013 season. He previously trained Petrograd and Spartak Moscow during an eight year stint in the Russian league and was named the best trainer in that league in 2011.
Czech Winter Olympics snowboardcross gold medallist Eva Samková has been seriously injured during training for a world cup event in Switzerland. Samková badly damaged her ankle, one arm, and was severely concussed after falling badly at the end of a jump. She was taken to hospital by helicopter. Samková was training in her first event since the Sochi games. Her coach said that organizers had been warned about the danger of the jump where Samková and other competitors were injured.
Czech president Miloš Zeman has dismissed any resurrection of US plans to construct an anti-missile defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland by saying it would be ineffective. Zeman’s spokesman said that the head of state was standing by his long held views on Czech participation in a US anti-missile defence system. Republican Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain suggested the US revive its plans for a radar station in the Czech Republic and anti-missile base in Poland as reaction to Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine crisis. The plans developed under former president George W Bush were quickly dropped by successor Barack Obama soon after he became president. Moscow frequently protested the proposed siting of the missile defence system in Central Europe saying that it was aimed at undermining its defences and not a move to counter so-called ‘rogue states’.
Members of the Czech NGO Dekomunizace have raised a giant banner at City Hall in Liberec, north of Prague, casting Russian leader Vladimir Putin as Adolf Hitler - complete with the Nazi dictator’s moustache and medals on his overcoat featuring the swastika and the red star. The banner was hung close to a memorial remembering nine in Liberec who were killed during the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Dekomunizace, dedicated to casting light on crimes committed by the former regime, made clear it was protesting Russia’s recent invasion of Crimea and intervention in Ukraine’s domestic politics. The banner was raised with permission by City Hall; the police, however, began to investigate after charges were filed.