Daily news summary

Former high-ranking Communist official Miroslav Štěpán dies aged 68

Former high-ranking official of the totalitarian Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, Miroslav Štěpán, died on Sunday at the age of 68, the news website novinky.cz reported. Mr Štěpán, who served as chair of the party’s Prague organization and member of its central committee in the late 1980s, rose to national notoriety as a vehement opponent of the Velvet Revolution of 1989. He was arrested shortly after the collapse of the regime, and served two and half years in prison for his role in suppressing anti-communist protests. Miroslav Štěpán was one of few Communist officials to have been sentenced after 1989; he never relinquished his ideology, and blamed Soviet leaders for abandoning their comrades in Prague.

Czech Republic ready to deploy its air force in protection of Eastern European countries

If asked, the Czech Republic is ready to deploy its military aircraft in protection of countries close to Ukraine, Defence Minister Martin Stropnický said. Speaking on Czech TV on Sunday, Mr Stropnický said no such petition had arrived; however, if need be, Czech fighter jets could be deployed in Romania or other countries in the region. The defence minister also said the Czech Army was most likely not going to take party in any massive NATO exercise in response to Russia’s military activities in Ukraine.

Record-high unemployment to be tackled by inter-ministerial team

An inter-ministerial team will draft up measures to tackle the record high Czech unemployment levels, the minister of labour and social affairs, Michaela Marksová-Tominová told the news agency ČTK on Sunday. The team will include experts from the ministries of labour and social affairs, education and industry and trade, according to the minister who presented the outlines of her plan to President Miloš Zeman at the weekend. With nearly 630,000 jobless people, the unemployment levels reached a record high in January.

Old ordnance explosion in north Moravia kills one, injures three

A man has died and three other people sustained severe injuries in an explosion of old ordnance in the community of Vítkov, in north Moravia, a spokesman for the regional emergency services said. The 44-year-old victim and his associates reportedly found unexploded ordnance in a former military training area nearby. They took it home but it exploded as they were manipulating with it in the garage of the victim’s house. Another two men suffered devastating injuries and a woman was injured lightly in the explosion.

Two die in České Budějovice police car chase

Two people have died in a police car chase in České Budějovice in the early hours of Sunday, local police said. The incident occurred after a police patrol pulled a car over a minor offence on an embankment at about 2:30 AM in the centre of the city; the driver reportedly waited for officers to step out of their vehicle before speeding off. In the ensuing pursuit, the 24-year-old driver crashed into a tree, killing himself as well as a female passenger. Circumstances of the incident are under investigation.

Around 30 football hooligans arrested in Ostrava

The police in Ostrava have arrested around 30 alleged football hooligans over disorder before and during first division game between Ostrava and Sparta Prague, a police spokeswoman said. Some Sparta fans were detained upon arrival in Ostrava on Saturday afternoon after causing disorder on the train. The police said they had been throwing fireworks out of the train and attacked police officers. Others, including a number of Baník Ostrava supporters from Poland, were arrested after violent clashes that erupted during the half-time break. Eleven police officers and an unspecified number of football hooligans suffered injuries in the clashes, according to the police; the second half of the game was postponed by some 20 minutes. Damages to the stadium’s equipment have been estimated at 150,000 crowns. The incidents have been denounced by the Football Association who called for changes to legislation that would allow organizers to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Painter Jaroslav Šerých dies aged 86

Czech painter and illustrator Jaroslav Šerých died in Prague on Sunday, his wife said. He was 86. A graduate of Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts, Šerých specialized in graphic art and illustration. His work is represented in some 30 galleries in the Czech Republic and abroad, the news agency ČTK wrote. He illustrated over 70 books including poetry collections by Vladimír Holan, Jiří Orten and Zdeněk Rotrekl. In 2008, Jaroslav Šerých was awarded the Czech Republic’s Medal of Merit.