Daily news summary
Czech PM accuses Russia of lying about Novichok attack
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has rejected Russia’s claim that the Czech Republic could have been the source of the nerve agent believed to have poisoned a former double agent in Britain and his daughter.
Speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels, the Czech prime minister said the allegation that the Novichok nerve gas used in the attack had come from the Czech Republic was a blatant lie.
He said the Czech Republic stood by its British ally in this matter and would emphasize this stand at the upcoming EU summit which is expected to address the incident. The Czech prime minister stressed the need for a united EU stance in condemning the attack.
The Russian foreign ministry has denied responsibility for the attack saying that the Czech Republic along with Slovakia, Sweden, and Britain could have been the source of the so-called Novichok agent.
PM warns EU pressure over quotas fuelling populist forces
The Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has warned that prolonged pressure over the matter of migrant quotas is fuelling populist forces in the Czech Republic and could, in a worst case scenario, lead to the Czech Republic leaving the EU.
In an interview for Die Welt the Czech prime minister said the Czech Republic was not shirking its responsibility for helping solve the migrant crisis but felt strongly that it should be resolved outside the EU, in the counties of origin.
Mr. Babiš has come under pressure from the anti-migrant Party of Freedom and Direct Democracy to agree on a bill which would enable Czechs to vote in a referendum on leaving the EU, but has resisted the pressure, saying that referenda on foreign policy issues such as this are unacceptable.
Explosion at chemical plant kills six, two injured
Six people are reported dead and two injured in an explosion at a chemical plant in Kralupy nad Vltavou, north of Prague. The two injured are reported to be in stable condition and were transported to Prague‘s Vinohrady hospital, which specializes in burns.
The head of the local fire brigade said a storage tank had exploded on the premises, but there was no danger of other explosions. People in the vicinity have been assured they are not in danger and that no toxic substances were released into the environment. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
Court ruling: Zeman’s anti-migrant election slogan was not illegal
One of President Zeman’s election slogans, suggesting that the victory of his main rival Jiří Drahoš could lead to an influx of migrants into the country, was an oversimplification, but was not in violation of the law, the Czech Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday. It dealt with the issue on the grounds of a complaint from a voter.
The message which appeared on numerous billboards around the country read “Stop migrants and Drahoš! This country is ours! Vote for Zeman”.
Constitutional Court Judge Pavel Rychetsky said the panel had reached a unanimous decision that the statement could not be viewed as a lie, merely a judgment based on Drahoš’ publicly expressed views.
Catherine Deneuve to receive lifetime achievement award at Febiofest
French film star Catherine Deneuve is to receive the Kristian Award for her contribution to world cinematography on Thursday at the closing ceremony of the Prague Febiofest film festival.
In just over a week the festival screened more than 160 movies in 15 categories, including New Europe, a competition section showcasing debuts.
Another bright light at the festival was the illustrious French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour who also received a lifetime achievement award.
Although the festival is drawing to a close in the Czech capital it will continue in 16 other Czech cities up until April 20th.
Number of foreigners in Czechia approaching half million mark
The number of foreigners residing in the Czech Republic has risen to 493,400, the highest number in the country’s modern history, the Czech Statistics Office reported on Thursday.
The largest foreign minorities are Ukrainians, Slovaks and Vietnamese. Together these three nationalities make up more than half of the foreigners living in the country.
Friday should be overcast around most of the country with rain or snow showers in the higher altitudes. Day temperatures between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius.