Daily news summary

NÚKIB cyber security service head Dušan Navrátil sacked

The government has unanimously agreed to dismiss National Cyber and Information Security Service (NÚKIB) director Dušan Navrátil, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) told the Czech News Agency on Monday.

Babiš said that Navrátil lacked the necessary managerial and communication skills as well as experience to run the service effectively.

A successor will be chosen by a new seven-member committee comprised in part of intelligence agency chiefs. In the meantime, the NÚKIB will be led by statutory deputy Jaroslav Šmíd.

Navrátil had come under criticism from President Miloš Zeman, who accused him of putting the Czech Republic’s economic interests at “serious risk” by issuing “unfounded” warnings about Russian and Chinese influence.

Babiš also criticized Navrátil in December 2018 after the NÚKIB warned against using software and hardware from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE.

Babiš: National Investment Plan envisages 20,000 projects over three decades

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš says the Czech Republic’s National Investment Plan involves over 20,000 projects. Speaking in Monday’s edition of the newspaper Lidové noviny, Mr. Babiš said the total amount to be invested between now and 2050 would be around CZK 8 billion.

The top priorities are transport, which will account for around three-quarters of the entire amount spent, healthcare, energy, climate control and cyber security. The government is due to discuss the investment plan on Monday, Lidové noviny said.

“Million Moments” plans 200 anti-Babiš protests nationwide on Monday

The initiative “A Million Moments for Democracy”, which is calling for Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) to step down over alleged corruption and conflicts of interest, plans 200 protests in towns across the country on Monday.

Some 50,000–80,000 people turned out for the group’s last demonstration, held on Prague’s Wenceslas Square last Tuesday. No protest action is planned in the Czech capital today.

The “Million Moments” initiative has held a series of anti- Babiš protests since late April, when Czech police proposed he be charged with EU subsidy fraud.

V4 mayors sign “Free Cities Pact” to combat populism, promote transparency, tackle climate crisis

Prague mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates) and his counterparts from the other Visegrad Four capitals – Bratislava, Warsaw and Budapest – have signed a “Free Cities Pact” pledging cooperation on issues including immigration, climate change and the rule of law.

The V4 mayors agreed to create the pact on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, through which they have pledged to work together in defence of a pro-EU urban electorate standing against socially conservative national governments.

In a joint statement, they expressed concern over the rise of populist governments in central Europe that have sought to “exploit societal discontent for personal and political gain, without providing real answers.”

The V4 mayors said such troubling trends “must be reversed through grassroots democracy and smart, inclusive governance”.

Press: Police accuse ex-PM Petr Nečas of perjury in BIS leak case

Police have accused former premier Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats) of perjury in a case relating to a leak of classified information in 2013 by a top aide who later became his wife, the news server Aktualne.cz reports. The scandal had helped topple his government.

In November, a Prague court found insufficient evidence to convict his wife Jana and two other defendants of leaking information sourced by the counter-intelligence agency BIS. Police now say Nečas gave false testimony to support her defence. If found guilty of perjury, he could face up to three years in prison.

In 2017, Nečas’s wife Jana (née Nagyová) was found guilty of abusing BIS information when she headed Nečas’s office but was given a suspended sentence. She had illegally instructed the agency to monitor the premier’s then wife, Radka.

Italy’s Leonardo files complaint with Czech watchdog ÚOHS over military helicopter deal

The Italian aerospace company Leonardo has filed a complaint with the Office for the Protection of Competition (ÚOHS) over the army’s purchase of helicopters from US rival Bell.

Czech Minister of Defence Lubomír Metnar last week signed a deal to buy eight utility UH-1Y Venom helicopters and four AH-1Z attacks Viper helicopters from Bell for CZK 14.6 billion.

The ministry said it chose Bell over cheaper options – including Leonardo’s Augusta AW139M – because the US firm offered greater cooperation with Czech firms, in particular state-owned enterprise LOM Praha, which maintains Soviet-era Mi-24 helicopters.

Czech Army to buy two CASA tactical transport aircraft

Ministry of Defence officials have signed a contract to buy two new tactical transport aircraft CASA C-295MW from the Spanish firm and modernise other models currently in use.

The new aircraft will cost about CZK 1.94 billion and the modernisation another cost CZK 360 million. The military has long sought to fully replace the Soviet-era Yak-40 planes now in use.

Unmarked Berlin grave of Nazi “Butcher of Prague” Reinhard Heydrich opened

Berlin police are investigating the opening of the unmarked grave of former SS officer Reinhard Heydrich, one of the main architects of the Holocaust, known as the “Butcher of Prague”.

Heydrich was Nazi Reichsprotektor of the so-called protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia when ambushed and shot in May 1942 by a British-trained team of Czech and Slovak paratroopers in ‘Operation Anthropoid’. He eventually died in Berlin the following month.

After the war, the remains of Heydrich and other Nazi leaders were reburied in unmarked graves to prevent Nazi sympathisers turning them into shrines.

German police say that whoever violated Heydrich’s grave in central Berlin’s Invalids' Cemetery likely had inside knowledge of its location. According to preliminary information, nothing was removed, police said.

Vrba’s time as coach of Viktoria Plzeň evidently over

Coach Pavel Vrba says he has probably overseen his last game in charge of Czech top flight football club Viktoria Plzeň. He made the comment after a 1:1 draw with Teplice on Sunday. Plzeň are expected to issue a statement on the situation on Monday or Tuesday. The 66-year-old is reportedly going to take over at the Bulgarian club Ludogorets Razgrad.

Vrba has spent two spells in charge of Viktoria Plzeň, leading the West Bohemian club to unprecedented success in the Czech league and into the group stage of the Champions League. With 20 rounds of the current season played Plzeň are 16 points behind leaders Slavia Prague.

Weather outlook

Tuesday should be partly cloudy throughout most of the country, with skies clearing in the evening. Daytime highs should range from 6 to 10 degrees Celsius.