Daily news summary

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Government agrees on draft state budget for 2017

The government has approved a draft state budget for 2017 with a deficit of 60 billion crowns. The decision was tweeted by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Wednesday. The draft is counting on wage increases for teachers and healthcare workers as well as increases in old age pensions. The state is also counting on an increase in revenues from health insurers. Among those seeing wage rises are other public sector employees, firefighters, the police, and in all likelihood, soldiers.

Czech TV: Interior Ministry to receive additional 420 million crowns in state budget for 2017

The Interior Ministry will receive an additional 420 million crowns from the state budget for next year, Czech TV reported on Wednesday, outlining that Interior Minister Milan Chovanec had reached a compromise agreement with Finance Minister Andrej Babiš. Earlier in the week, Mr Chovanec had telegraphed that the ministry would need an additional 1.1 billion crowns for 2017, a proposal Mr Babiš largely rejected. Following the agreement, the Interior Ministry budget for 2017 will be higher by 3.8 billion crowns overall from the previous year. Some of the additional finances will go towards preparing police forces against terrorism, including the acquisition of new arms, defense equipment and other items.

Russian dissident allowed to go free on written promise he will not leave Czech Republic while facing legal proceedings

Prague’s Municipal court has allowed Russian dissident and art activist Oleg Vorotnikov to go free on a written promise he will not leave the Czech Republic as long as he is subject to legal proceedings. The artist is wanted in Russia for hooliganism. The Czech judge overhearing his case took into the account that Mr Vorotnikov had been travelling in the Czech Republic with his family at the time of his arrest and not “in hiding” ; she also considered the nature of the charges against him. The artist’s lawyer welcomed the outcome, but expressed fear that if the artist, a fierce critic of the Putin regime, were returned to Russia, he would face persecution. He also suggested Mr Vorotnikov will try and seek political asylum in the Czech Republic. The Russian activist is the leader of the art group Voina, which has ridiculed the Putin regime through street art, for example, spraying a giant phallus on a drawbridge in St. Petersburg across from the headquarters of the secret services.

Court clears defendant, involved in publication of controversial Islamic book, of promoting movement aimed at suppressing rights and freedoms

A Prague court has cleared Vladimír Šanka, the former head of Prague’s Muslim community, of ‘promoting a movement aimed at suppressing rights and freedoms’, in connection with the publication of a radical Islamic text. Central to the debate in the trial, was whether the book, banned in some countries for promoting Salafism, fell under the definition of an ideology or movement. The court ruled that it was the former. Promotion of a hate movement would constitute a criminal act carrying a possible sentence of up to 10 years behind bars. The state prosecutor had sought a three-year suspended sentence in the case and has already appealed the decision.

Bělobrádek apologises for VAT confusion

Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Bělobrádek apologised on Wednesday for creating apparent confusion by maintaining that leaders of the ruling coalition of the Social Democrats, ANO, and his own party, the Christian Democrats, had agreed on the lowering of VAT on draught beer and basic foodstuffs. He corrected information made public by saying that the matter in fact had not yet been approved. The idea being floated is that the VAT on beer on tap and basic food items could be lowered from 21 to 15 percent next year, and dropped to ten the year after. Fellow party leaders Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and ANO’s Andrej Babiš said they were not aware of any agreement after details were released by Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka, a member of the Christian Democrats.

Supreme Court rejects appeal by hunter who accidently shot and killed homeless man

The country’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Miroslav Kocián, a hunter who accidentally shot and killed a homeless man three years ago. Mr Kocián was sentenced to three years and two months in prison after a court originally ruled negligence had played a role. The hunter said he had mistaken the group of vagabonds in sleeping bags in a field for a deer. The Supreme Court heard the case in July but only released details of its decision now.

Court orders Lidice Memorial organisation to add name of sculptress' husband to plaque

Organisers in charge of the Lidice Memorial, a bronze monument to the children of Lidice - war victims from the Czech village razed by the Nazis in WWII as reprisal for the assassination of acting Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich - have been ordered to add the name of sculptor Jiří Hampl to a plaque attributing the work solely to his late wife. The academic sculptor Marie Uchytilová who died in 1989 is credited with the design but her husband contributed to the work's realisation in bronze. František Vyskočil, a representative of the Lidice Memorial organisation, maintains the work was Mrs Uchytilová's alone; he says an expert assessment should determine the nature of the contribution by her husband and has recommended that the matter be taken before the country's Supreme Court.

Motorists suffer long delays Wednesday after authorities close Blanka Tunnel

A truck crash at an entrance to Prague’s Blanka Tunnel complex led the authorities to completely block entry to the tunnel on Wednesday leading to long traffic delays. Traffic later resumed along one lane, a police spokesman confirmed. Vehicles above ground were delayed for about one hour, sources reported.

Brewer Plzeňský Prazdroj to raise prices from next month

One of the Czech Republic’s leading breweries, Plzeňský Prazdroj, is set to raise its prices by an average of 3.2 percent from the start of October. It will cost pubs and restaurants an extra 60 hellers a half-litre for the 10-degree lager Gambrinus and one crown more a half-litre of the 12-degree Pilsner Urquell. The brewer said it was raising its prices to cover more expensive raw materials, in particular hops, and investment in modernizing and expanding its sales.

Czechs' hopes of advancing at World Cup of Hockey extinguished

The Czech Republic now have no way of reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. Josef Jandač’s men only have one point after a 6:0 loss to Canada and a 3:2 defeat to Team Europe on penalties and had their hopes of advancing extinguished when Canada beat the US on Tuesday. The Czechs will face the US on Friday in a game to decide third place in their group.