Daily news summary

Russian authorities effectively ban Czech NGO People in Need

The Russian authorities have placed the Czech NGO People in Need on a list of undesirable organisations, the TASS news agency reported. The move by the Ministry of Justice in Moscow amounts to a ban on the humanitarian organisation operating in the country as continuing to do so can result in high sanctions and jail sentences. People in Need said it was not surprised by the announcement, adding that it had no plans to cease working in Russia.

The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Tomáš Petříček, said the reasons the NGO were placed on the list were absurd and that he would seek an explanation from the Russian ambassador to Prague.

Since Russia brought in legislation against undesirable organisations in 2015 a number of international groups have been effectively barred from the country.

Czech pilgrims attend public audience with Pope Francis

Pilgrims from the Czech Republic attended a public audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday.

Believers from this country travelled to the Vatican to mark the 30th anniversary of the canonisation of Saint Agnes of Bohemia by Pope John Paul II on 12 November 1989, which was considered a significant event in the final days of the Communist regime.

During the audience on St. Peter’s Square the pilgrims presented the Pontiff with a gift in the form of a bronze and silver statue representing the Czech saint.

The Pope blessed many of them and swooped up several small children for a ride in his Pope mobile.

Czech-Chinese Centre at Charles University to be closed down

The Czech-Chinese Centre at Charles University is to be closed down on the orders of the university’s rector Tomáš Zima.

The university has been embroiled in a scandal over secret Chinese payments to four of its faculty members, amid concerns that Beijing is using the centre to boost its influence in the Czech academic sphere.

The university fired the head of the university’s Centre for Security Policy, and two other members of the Social Sciences faculty last week after it emerged that they had set up a private fund through which the Chinese embassy paid for conferences co-organised by the university centre.

Rector Zima said he would not stand by and watch the centre damage the university’s reputation. Charles University is the oldest university in Central Europe.

Czech embassy officials to visit refugee camps in Greece

Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček has said that officials from the Czech embassy in Athens would visit Greek refugee camps housing “unaccompanied minors“ in order to ascertain the situation in connection with an appeal from the Greek authorities for individual EU member states to accept a given number of orphans.

Christian Democrat leader Marek Výborný, who relayed the minister’s words to the press, said that if the selected children passed the security screening then the Czech Republic should show solidarity and accept them. Greece has suggested the Czech Republic could take in 40 of the 2,500 “unaccompanied minors”.

The Christian Democrats who have strongly advocated for this to be done say there are Czech families ready to give them a home.

However the ruling parties have frowned on the idea, with Prime Minister Babis reiterating that refugees, including underage children, should be helped in their home countries.

Václav Havel Airport planning expansion

Prague’s Václav Havel Airport will expand Terminal 2 in order to accommodate the growing number of passengers, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said at a press briefing in Prague on Wednesday.

The planned expansion, which was approved by the Finance Ministry, should cost 16 billion crowns and be concluded by 2028. The prime minister said plans to build another parallel runway would be dealt with in accordance with the availability of state finances for the project.

The airport is planning future investments to the tune of 55 billion crowns.

Tennis star Berdych expected to announce retirement this weekend

The Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych looks set to announce his retirement. Berdych, who is 34, will make public that he is quitting the sport at the ATP Finals in London this weekend, his father Martin Berdych told the newspaper Blesk.

Berdych, who has problems with his left hip, signalled his intention to retire at the US Open earlier this year.

In a very successful career he reached fourth in the world rankings, made it to the final at Wimbledon and won the Davis Cup with the Czech Republic twice.

Weather forecast

Thursday is expected to be partly cloudy to overcast with day temperatures between 0 and 6 degrees Celsius. More snow is expected in the mountain regions.