Chairman of Czech Senate leaves for Cuba

The Chairman of the Czech Senate, Petr Pithart, is visiting Havana on the invitation of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The aim of his mission is to negotiate the release of two Czech citizens, arrested in Cuba more than two weeks ago on charges of subversion. Ivan Pilip and Jan Bubenik were detained on January 12 after meeting with local dissidents. The international community has been exerting pressure on Havana to release the two men, one of whom is a parliamentary deputy and former Czech finance minister. Upon his arrival late on Monday, Petr Pithart told Cuban journalists that Mr. Pilip and Mr. Bubenik travelled to Cuba on their own and did not represent the Czech nation or country and therefore the Czech Republic cannot be held responsible for their activities.

Earlier, the Czech government has also distanced itself from Mr. Pilip's and Mr. Bubenik's journey to Cuba, saying it was a private venture. However, Prime Minister Milos Zeman stressed that the government will do its best to get the two men back to the Czech Republic, and to renew normal political and economic dialogue between the two countries.

The Deputy chairman of the Czech Communist Party, Miroslav Ransdorf, who held talks with the Cuban charge d'affaires in Prague last week, suggested that the whole case might be over within a month.