Daily news summary

Czech government condemns rocket attacks from Gaza Strip

The Czech government has strongly condemned the recent wave of rocket attacks carried out by militant organizations in the Gaza Strip. The region has seen three days of escalated violence despite an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. A statement published by the Czech Foreign Ministry on Friday says the Czech Republic supports the ongoing peace negotiations in the Middle East and the diplomatic efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry. We are convinced that only direct negotiations can lead to a solution which would secure long-term peace and stability for both nations, the statement says.

Steep rise in applications for Czech citizenship

The Interior Ministry reports a steep rise in the number of foreigners applying for Czech citizenship, according to Friday’s edition of the daily Lidové Noviny. The rise is being attributed to the change of legislation which now allows dual citizenship. In January of this year the number of applicants was four times higher than in the same period last year and the February figure was eight times higher –at 1226 applicants. Last year the ministry granted citizenship requests to 947 Ukrainians, 176 Poles, 176 Vietnamese and 142 Russians.

Czech PM visits Plotzensee Memorial Centre

On a working visit to Germany, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Friday paid homage to 677 Czech Nazi resistence fighters who were executed in the Plotzensee jailhouse. Laying a wreath at the Plotzensee Memorial Centre the prime minister said it was important that the heroic deeds of resistance fighters should not be forgotten. Almost 3,000 executions were conducted in the Plotzensee jailhouse between 1933 and 1945.

The Czech prime minister is on a two-day working visit to Germany, his first since taking office. His talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top officials on Thursday focused on bilateral ties, European integration and the crisis in Ukraine. The Czech prime minister also visited the Volkswagen headquarters in Wolfsburg; the German firm owns the Czech carmaker Škoda Auto.

Man charged with Houska murder claims he did not know his victim

The man charged with the murder of influential businessman and Social Democratic Party regional politician Roman Houska claims he was unaware of the victim’s identity. The killer, who reportedly fired four shots at Houska at the height of a violent quarrel, turned himself in on Thursday. He told the police he only learnt of the victims’ identity from media reports. The police say there is no question that the man is the culprit since in his testimony he revealed facts that could only have been known to the murderer.

Police crack down on drug-smuggling ring

The police in south Bohemia are reported to have cracked down on a drug-smuggling ring operating at one of the Vietnamese open-air markets close to the border. A police spokeswoman said officers confiscated a kilogram of crystal methamphetamine with a street value of approximately one million crowns which was bound for Germany. The gang reportedly sold drugs to German and Austrian tourists and also smuggled drugs across the border themselves in small quantities. There is a nationwide search on for several members of the gang, but the gang leader – a woman – was reportedly detained in the crack-down.

Unknown protester rewrites names of Prague streets

An unknown protester has "renamed" several streets in Prague in reaction to the Russian invasion of Crimea, the CTK news agency reports. Street signs such as Ukraine, Crimea, Sevastopol, the Black Sea, or Estonia were plastered with red stickers bearing the inscription "Russian?" probably in order to indicate where Russia may focus its attention in the future. Several days ago someone similarly changed the name of a tram stop from "Crimea Street" to "Russia Street."

Ten children lightly injured in bus crash

A bus carrying a large group of school children to a sports event crashed near the west Bohemian town of Plzen around midday on Friday. Ten of the children suffered light injuries, mostly bumps and bruises and were taken to hospital for a check-up. According to police sources the accident happened when the bus driver drove too close to the side of the road to give an oncoming truck more space and overturned into a ditch. A Breathalyzer test proved negative.

Actor Otakar Brousek dies at 89

The popular and widely respected Czech actor Otakar Brousek has died at the age of 89. Mr. Brousek was a member of the prestigious Vinohrady Theatre in Prague which he joined in 1959. Despite his advanced age he still appeared in the Czech version of the play Yes, Mr. Prime Minister which premiered in 2005. In 1996 Otakar Brousek received an award for his contribution to Czech dubbing and a few years ago he received the Thalia prize for his lifelong contribution to Czech theatre.

Zeman to mark first anniversary with Prague Castle celebration

President Miloš Zeman will mark the first anniversary of his inauguration with a celebration at the Spanish Hall at Prague Castle on Friday. Over 250 people have been invited, including supporters of the head of state’s presidential campaign and figures from the spheres of public life and culture. However it is not an official state event and no politicians will be in attendance. Critics have questioned Mr. Zeman’s relatively broad interpretation of the powers of his office and interventions in party politics, though others credit him with an active and pro-European presidency.

Plzeň lose 4:1 to Lyon in first leg of Europa League round of 16 tie

Viktoria Plzeň were beaten 4:1 by the French club Olympic Lyonnais on Thursday night in the first leg of their round of 16 tie in the Europa League, European soccer’s second tier club competition. Plzeň got off to a bright start when Tomáš Hořava opened the scoring after two minutes, but the hosts drew level soon afterwards and took the lead in the second half. The second leg takes place in West Bohemia next Thursday.