Daily news summary
Experts start clearing Vrbětice munitions depot
Pyrotechnics experts have begun clearing the site of a damaged munitions depot in Vrbětice, eastern Moravia. The operation started on Monday morning after no spontaneous explosions had occurred at the site for nine days. Experts will first comb the surrounding forest and meadows for any unexploded munitions potentially tossed the wayside by earlier explosions at the site before moving inside the depot. Any munitions found will be either transferred to a new holding area or will be destroyed on site. The depot near Zlín was partially destroyed by a massive blast in October which killed two employees and led to further uncontrolled explosions, putting the local communities at risk.
Foreign Ministry sends diplomatic note to Norway over boys taken away from their mother
The Czech Foreign Ministry on Monday handed a diplomatic note to the Norwegian ambassador in Prague over two boys taken away from their mother by Norway’s social services. In the note, the ministry assures the Norwegian authorities that it can guarantee the boys will be taken care of if they are returned to the Czech Republic, Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek told the news website idnes.cz. The Norwegian social services took the boys away from their Czech parents in 2011 over alleged sexual abuse, and have since placed them in foster care. Their mother last week filed a lawsuit with a court in Norway, asking for a revision of the social services’ decision.
MPs postpone new VAT on building lots
The lower house of Parliament on Monday approved a Senate proposal to postpone the introduction of a 21-percent value-added tax on building lost by one year. Senators argued that the introduction of the new tax could thwart sales of land that had already been arranged. The new tax will come into force in January 2016. The MPs on Monday also relaxed the rules for the newly introduced obligation to report VAT to the tax authorities; under the new rules, self-employed VAT payers will only be required to send in their reports every three months rather than each month.
Report: US think tank shuns Czech ex-president over support for Putin
The libertarian US think tank Cato Institute has severed ties with former Czech president Václav Klaus over his support for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, the news website The Daily Beast reported. Mr Klaus became a distinguished senior fellow at the Washington-based institute shortly after his second term as Czech head of state expired in 2013, in recognition of his long-term views. But according to the report, the institute ended its official relationship with Mr Klaus in September over his support for the Russian president as well as his attitude toward gay rights and his very open association with far right groups.
Government approves waste management plan for next decade
The Czech government on Monday approved a new waste management strategy for the next ten years. The Environment Ministry said that under the plan, the recycling of waste should increase while the volume of garbage stored in dumps should decrease. However, critics say the plan lowers the recycling target from 50 to 35 percent of waste, with more waste likely to be incinerated in the future. Last year, some 30 percent of waste was recycled in the Czech Republic, with the EU average being around 40 percent.
Regular radio interviews with President Zeman to end
Regular live radio interviews with President Miloš Zeman will be most likely discontinued after Czech Radio CEO Peter Duhan said the programme’s future editions would have to be pre-recorded, an idea previously rejected by the president. Mr Zeman came under fire over vulgar remarks he delivered in November’s edition of the programme; Czech Radio’s supervising board later said the public broadcaster breached the law by airing the interview. Mr Zeman’s spokesman said on Monday the president’s office would find a way to make sure listeners still have an opportunity to hear the head of state in a live radio interview. A live radio interview with then president Václav Havel was first broadcast in 1990, and continued until 1998. Czech Radio revived the programme last year, and has since broadcast the interviews every three months.
Audit: Agriculture Ministry wastes money on promotion, consulting
The Czech Agriculture Ministry spent around one million crowns from EU funds on self-promotion materials with no information value, the Supreme Audit Office has found. These included puzzles, fans, toys and other objects. The agency also discovered shortcomings related to consulting services purchased by the ministry. The Supreme Audit Office checked 86 of the ministry’s projects worth around 127 million crowns, and found that some 8 million crowns were not used appropriately. The ministry blamed the problems on administrative errors, and said the Czech or EU budgets suffered no financial losses.
Over 430 million donated through text messages since 2004
Since their invention in 2004, Czechs have sent around 17 million donation text messages, the Donors Forum said on Monday. In total, more than 430 million crowns has been donated through mobile devices, the group said. Known as DMS, donation text messages were invented in the Czech Republic, and were first used in a fundraising campaign for disadvantaged children in 2004. DMSs have since become popular with Czech donors who last year gave over 36 million crowns in this way.
Municipal policeman charged with double attempted murder
The police have charged a 42-year member of the municipal police in Vysoké Mýto, eastern Bohemia, of double attempted murder. The municipal police officer allegedly shot two people with his private gun, killing one and seriously wounding the other. The incident occurred after the man, along with two associates, was denied entry into a disco in the town on Saturday night. The men sprayed pepper into the establishment and ran away. The officer then shot at two security staffers who pursued them; he was allegedly drunk during the incident. If convicted, the man could be sentenced to up 20 years in jail, or receive life sentence.
Armed robber holds up JIP supermarket
A man held employees at a JIP supermarket at gunpoint in Pardubice, east of Prague, on Monday, making off with at least one million crowns, the Czech News Agency reports. The firm itself released no information but ČTK points out that the criminal police are involved. Police have plate numbers from the suspect’s vehicle and are tracking to see if it was stolen. Police units, equipped with bullet-proof vests and automatic weapons, are monitoring roads in the area for a sign of the perpetrator. If caught and found guilty, he faces up to 10 years behind bars.