Daily news summary
Prime Minister Sobotka reiterates that Czech Republic does not accept Crimean referendum result
The Czech Republic does not recognize the result of Crimea’s referendum Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka reiterated on Monday, saying the result went against Ukraine’s constitution and against the 1994 treaty guaranteeing Ukraine’s modern borders. The referendum, he stressed, was irregular, not allowing international observers and having taken place under a marked Russian military presence. The result has likewise been rejected by the European Union and the United States, who agreed to impose sanctions. On Monday, the Czech government expressed agreement that part of the EU association agreement be signed with Ukraine by the end of the week.
Czech president says Crimean referendum contravenes Ukraine’s constitution
Czech President Miloš Zeman reacted on Monday to Crimea’s referendum, saying the vote contravened Ukraine’s constitution but suggesting the result should lead to the greater autonomy of Crimea, spokesman Jiří Ovčáček said. The spokesman pointed out the president's view on Crimea's autonomy was similar to that of former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger (who oulined his position in a recent Washington Post opinion piece). In the referendum result on Sunday, the vast majority of Crimean voters chose the option to rejoin Russia. The Crimean Parliament on Monday formally declared Crimea’s independence, asking to join the Russian Federation. The US and the European Union have called the referendum illegal and have agreed to impose sanctions against Russia for intervening in Ukraine.
Committee named to oversee church property restitution
The government on Monday named a new committee to monitor and oversee church property restitution. Instead of the previously expected five members, the commission will have six, including Justice Minister Helena Válková. The committee is to report to the government every three months, the prime minister confirmed. Other members of the team will include the finance and interior ministers. Representatives from institutions affected by property restitution, such as the National Gallery or the state-owned forestry firm Lesy ČR, will also regularly attend committee meetings.
Former US ambassador testifies in Barták case
Former US ambassador to Prague and chairman of the supervisory board at Tatra trucks William Cabaniss testified in court on Monday in the case of former defence minister Martin Barták and arms dealer Michal Smrž charged with corruption in the purchase of Tatra trucks for the Czech army. The prosecution suspects Mr Barták in his capacity as deputy defence minister in 2008 asked the truck maker’s supervisory board head for a five-million dollar bribe. Mr Barták has denied any wrongdoing. In his testimony on Monday, Mr Cabaniss said he did not remember the exact amount asked for (or the currency) but said he found the offer highly inappropriate, suggesting he was completely caught off guard. If convicted, former defence minister Barták faces up to 12 years in prison.
Czech PM calls for calm and consistent response from EU to Crimea referendum
The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, has called for a uniform, calm and consistent response from the European Union to the result of the referendum in Crimea. Speaking in Monday’s edition of the German newspaper Handelsblatt, Mr. Sobotka said Europe should above all not react hysterically to the result of the referendum, in which more than 95% of Crimean voters were reported to have backed joining Russia. The Czech leader emphasised that his country and its European partners regarded the vote as unlawful and in contravention of Ukraine’s constitution; he said the only solution could be if Russia and Ukraine sat down at the negotiating table.
Former police president now in charge of regional force
Former Czech police president Martin Červíček began his first day on the job on Monday as the head of the regional police force in Hradec Králové. The force there and in other regions such as Pardubice, south Bohemia and the Czech-Moravian Highlands have all seen broad changes in leadership, according to plans going back several years. Martin Červíček was police president for over a year but was replaced following the return of his predecessor Petr Lessy, after a court threw out charges against him of slander and abuse of office.
Court says Prague villa belonged to wanted fugitive and his wife both
A Prague district court on Monday refused to strike from legal proceedings an abandoned Prague villa belonging to fugitive businessman Radovan Krejčíř, being sued by a company which says it was owed 50 million crowns. Krejčíř evaded justice in the Czech Republic in 2005; today, he faces criminal charges in South Africa. His wife, Kateřina, had argued the Prague villa was hers alone, allegedly bought for 23 million crowns from funds provided by her father-in-law. The court maintained the property, which could be sold in an auction, belonged to both the husband and wife and was paid for from their own earnings. The villa has reportedly fallen into disrepair since 2005; experts estimated the property as being worth some 400 million crowns.
One injured in gas explosion in Plzeň apartment building
Residents were evacuated from an apartment building in the West Bohemian city of Plzeň on Sunday night following a gas explosion, a spokesperson for the local fire service told the Czech News Agency. One person was hospitalised after being injured in the blast, the cause of which is as yet unknown. Local authorities have organised temporary housing for 14 people who were forced to leave their homes and are now awaiting the result of an examination of the building by engineers.
Record number of films sent for Zlín Film Festival
A record 3,000 films – an increase of 100 percent say organisers – were entered for this year’s Zlín Film Festival focusing on children and youth. A selection of only around one-tenth will be chosen for screening, the festival’s spokesman Martin Pášma said. More films than previously were reportedly sent from countries in South America. The festival takes place from May 30 to June 5 and is in its 54th year; last year some 95,000 people attended.