Daily news summary


No members of the government attend banquet at Russian embassy

No members of the centre-left government led by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka have attended a banquet at the Russian embassy in Prague marking Victory Day (69 years this Friday since Nazi Germany capitulated to the Soviet Union). Czechs mark the end of WW II a day earlier, on May 8. The Czech news daily Právo writes that although government representatives did not take part, other politicians, such as the leader of the Communist Party Vojtěch Filip, were expected. Former president Václav Klaus also attended.

Earlier, the chairman of the lower house, Jan Hamáček, attended a ceremony at Prague’s Olšany cemetery, laying a wreath in the memory of 140,000 Soviet soldiers who died on Czechoslovak soil fighting against Nazi Germany.

Former president Klaus defends decision to attend

Former president Václav Klaus has defended his decision to attend an event at the Russian embassy in Prague marking Victory Day (May 9) the end of the Second World War for the former Soviet Union. Mr Klaus attended the banquet even though members of the current government chose not to, and his successor, Miloš Zeman, sent his head of international affairs at the Office of the President in his stead. Russia has come under increased criticism from the EU and the United States in recent days and weeks for intervention in Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea. Mr Klaus told the news website iDnes he remembered the end of the war well even though he was only a little boy at the time. He made clear the anniversary needed to be met with respect.

Sacked Russian historian speaks at Masaryk University

A Russian historian sacked from his post following criticism of the occupation by Russia of Crimea spoke on Friday at Brno’s Masaryk University. Andrej Zubov accepted the opportunity after turning down an offer to teach at Brno, one of several offers from foreign universities after he was dismissed from Moscow’s State Institute for International Relations. He angered authorities by comparing Russia’s actions over Crimea to Nazi Germany’s policies ahead of WWII, including the takeover of Austria and seizure of the Sudetenland. In Brno on Friday, Mr Zubov stressed that the Putin regime was "not Russia", saying there were Russians at home who opposed steps taken by the regime in neighbouring Ukraine.

Masaryk University reaches agreement with Zubov

Masaryk University in Brno has reached an agreement with Russian historian Andrej Zubov on occasional cooperation in the form of seminars and lectures, according to the Czech News Agency. Mr Zubov, a critic of the Putin regime, was originally offered a regular post but declined, preferring to remain in Moscow. On Friday, he gave a lecture on the situation in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as Czechoslovakia’s first president, T.G. Masaryk, who he referred to as a statesman of international stature. Regarding Ukraine, the historian maintained he was optimistic that violence there would not extend further, stressing it was impossible to guess what would happen if a NATO country was attacked by Russia. Professor Zubov said a good president would be helping to liberalize Russia, not making it withdraw from the rest of the world. The historian could return to lecture in Brno as early as the next academic season.

Clean-up operation at former chemical plant could be complete by 2018

The cleaning up of sludge at oil lagoons left by former chemical plant Ostramo in Ostrava – a major ecological burden for the Czech Republic – could be complete by 2018, the head of state enterprise Diamo, Josef Havelka has said. Some 200,000 tonnes of waste was removed in the past but thousands more were unexpectedly uncovered. Five firms will be chosen to take part in a tender to remove an additional 90,000 tonnes of the chemical dredge. The site of the lagoons was visited on Friday by Trade & Industry Minister Jan Mládek; he expressed the hope the tender on who would complete the clean-up operation would go through quickly.

Interior ministry seeks to get to grips with foreign intelligence spending

Minister of Interior Milan Chovanec has confirmed that officials are investigating suspect transactions carried out by the foreign intelligence service. Reporting on the probe Friday, the daily newspaper Dnes said that transactions included the purchase of property to serve for secret meetings and accommodation for agents. One piece of property was bought near an interior ministry site and turned out to be useless and another was purchased and renovated at considerable cost and then sold after also being found surplus to requirements. The paper pointed out that checks on spending by the foreign intelligence service, the Office for Foreign Relations and Information, is effectively carried out by the office itself.

Police search for jewellery thief

The Czech police are searching for a suspect wanted for theft at a jeweller’s in Prague in March. In the incident, the perpetrator made off with items worth 80 thousand crowns after posing as a customer interested in purchasing a gold item. Instead, he grabbed a display platter full of gold chains and headed for the door, pushing the female seller into a glass case (which shattered) as she tried to stop his escape. Officials have released a still from footage taken by a security camera and asked the public for help.

Cropduster crashes in Náchod area

A pilot had to be airlifted to hospital on Friday after crashing a cropduster in a field in the Náchod area. Emergency crews arriving at the scene found the agricultural aircraft shattered and on its roof, some 50 metres from the nearest road.

Two weeks ago, an ultralight crashed in the area with two people on board. They suffered only minor injuries and were treated on the spot.

Hockey: Czechs face Slovakia in first match at Worlds

The Czech national hockey team takes on former compatriots Slovakia on Friday in their opening match at the Ice Hockey World Championships in Minsk, Belarus. The Czechs, in Group A, then face Sweden on Sunday and Canada the beginning of the week. The team’s coach, Vladimír Růžička, stressed it was important the team got off to a good start since it would only be facing theoretically ‘weaker’ teams later in the tournament. Legendary forward Jaromír Jágr said he expected Friday’s match against Slovakia to be a tough one.

Tennis: Kvitová in semifinals at Madrid, Berdych out

Top Czech women’s tennis player Petra Kvitová has reached the semifinals in Madrid after American Serena Williams withdrew from the competition due to injury. Fellow Czech Tomáš Berdych, however, failed to advance in the men’s field, losing to World No. 1 Rafael Nadal 6:4, 6:2. Berdych, ranked sixth in the world, has now lost to Nadal in their last 17 match-ups.