Daily news summary

Petříček: Prague seeks talks with Moscow in bid to end statue dispute

The minister of foreign affairs, Tomáš Petříček, says that the Czech Republic on Tuesday asked Russia to hold discussions under a treaty on mutual cooperation in a bid to clear up, among other things, a dispute surrounding a statue of Red Army commander Ivan Konev. Mr. Petříček announced the move in the lower house in response to an opposition call for a debate on relations with Russia.

The Czech foreign policy chief called on MPs to not politicise the issue and to leave it to diplomats.

Russia was critical of the removal of the statue of Konev from Prague 6. The district’s mayor is now under police protection, as are the mayor of Prague and the mayor of another district. Media reports suggested the three were under threat from Russia but Moscow has strongly denied the allegation.

Wreathes laid at Czech Radio on anniversary of start of Prague Uprising

Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček and Senate speaker Miloš Vystrčil were among those who laid wreathes at Czech Radio on Tuesday to mark the 75th anniversary of the start of the Prague Uprising. The traditional memorial ceremony did not take place this year due to the coronavirus situation.

In a radio address, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said the nation owed great thanks and respect to those who had taken part in the uprising, adding that Prague had mainly been liberated by Czechs themselves.

The Prague Uprising began on May 5, 1945 following a call from Czechoslovak Radio, which became a focal point of the violence.

Czech and German leaders signed a ceasefire on May 8 but fighting only ended completely on May 9, when the Red Army entered the city.

Prague taxi driver once seriously ill with Covid-19 released from hospital

A Prague taxi driver who became one of the country’s best-known Covid-19 patients is due to be released on Tuesday. The man, who is 53, was admitted to hospital on March 10 in a very serious condition. He was the first patient in the Czech Republic to be treated with the experimental drug remdesivir.

Last week doctors said he had tested negative for the disease. He will now continue his recuperation at home.

Commission approves Czech support for exporters

The European Commission has approved the Czech Republic providing support of CZK 142 billion to firms hit by the coronavirus situation. The aid will take the form of guarantees on loans primarily to large companies with a significant share of exports.

The European Commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager, said the measure would help Czech firms to carry on during the crisis and after it ends.

The scheme is open to companies who get a least one-fifth of their annual income from international sales.

Government still seeking legal instrument to maintain coronavirus restrictions

The Social Democrats, a junior party in the ruling coalition, on Monday rejected an amendment to the Public Health Protection Act, which would give the Health Ministry greater powers in times of crisis.

The proposal, debated by the cabinet on Monday, was to have enabled the government to maintain a number of restrictions even after the state of emergency in the country ends on May 17.

Social Democrat leader Jan Hamáček argued that in its present form the proposed amendment is in violation of the constitution. He suggested instead an amendment to the constitutional law on security, saying that the Ministry of Interior, which he heads, would draft the amendment by Thursday.

Should that fail, the government would have to ask the lower house to further extend the state of emergency in the country.

Police shelve ex-minister’s complaint against former National Gallery director

The police have shelved two criminal complaints filed against former National Gallery director Jiří Fajt by Antonín Staněk, an ex-minister of culture. Mr. Staněk took the legal action shortly after he removed Mr. Fajt from the role, accusing him of financial impropriety. The gallery boss repeatedly denied the allegation.

The current arts minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, said his predecessor’s move had been clearly inappropriate and that he regretted what had happened.

Some arts institutions to reopen later than May 11

Not all Czech arts institutions will make use of the possibility to reopen, under certain restrictions, from next Monday. The head of Prague’s Archa Theatre, Ondřej Hrab, said the conditions imposed were too complicated and that it was aiming to restart on May 25, the date originally set under a government road map.

The CAMP architecture centre said it would wait until May 26 to reopen, while Palace Akropolis said it was planning to do so in early June.

From Monday theatres and cinemas will be able to welcome a maximum of 100 guests. They will have to guarantee social distancing in their seating arrangements.

Weather forecast

Wednesday should be overcast in the Czech Republic, with temperatures of up to 12 degrees Celsius. Daytime highs will rise to up to 22 degrees Celsius at the weekend, which is expected to be cloudy with some rain.