Daily news summary
Defence minister suggests Russian completion of Temelín unlikely
Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnický has said he finds it difficult to imagine that Russian firms would complete new units at the Czech Republic’s Temelín nuclear power plant in light of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. On Monday, the minister accused Russia of blatantly ignoring international law; he said the country could no longer be counted among predictable democratic states, calling its actions “unacceptable”. Fellow minister in government Jiří Dienstbier expressed a similar view, saying that while it was only his personal opinion, he could not imagine Russian companies taking part in the tender, stressing that a country that resorted to military aggression represented a security risk. The Russian consortium MIR 1200 was in the running against US-based Westinghouse to complete the power plant. The Czech government has officially condemned Russia’s actions in Crimea and has called on Russia not to resort to military action.
Methanol affair trial begins
The trial of 10 suspects of the Zlín ‘branch’ of a gang behind the so-called ‘methanol affair’ began at the regional court in Zlín on Monday. The state prosecutor had charged a total of 31 people in the case, but some suspects will be tried at different courts across the country. Those appearing in the courtroom on Monday are suspected of having been involved in the direct production or distribution of a deadly mix of bootleg liquor (containing lethal levels of methanol) which made it onto the market in 2012. The outbreak of methanol poisoning in the Czech Republic claimed more than 50 lives; if found guilty, the suspects could receive sentences between 12 and 20 years in jail or exemplary sentences of life behind bars.
Fire damage to historic mountain chalet estimated in the tens of millions
Fire damage to an historic mountain chalet known as “Libušín” - designed by Art Nouveau era architect Dušan Jurkovič and inspired by folk architecture - is likely to total tens of millions of crowns. The chalet, which served as a restaurant in Pustevny in the Beskydy Mountains in the east of the country, erupted in a blaze on Sunday; as a national heritage site the true extent of the damage is practically incalculable, experts say. More than 70 firefighters worked to get the fire under control but strong winds stoked the flames on the roof and through the interiors, which featured frescoes and sgraffiti designed by Czech painter Mikoláš Aleš. The chalet, named after the mythical Princess Libuše, was opened in 1899.
PM says country has enough gas and oil reserves if supplies cut or reduced
The Czech Republic has enough gas and oil reserves in the event gas or oil supplies from Ukraine are stopped or reduced, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka confirmed Sunday after a meeting of the National Security Council. Members - including the finance, interior and foreign ministers - were meeting to discuss the escalating crisis in Ukraine. In terms of energy or defence, Ukraine's crisis has not affected the Czech Republic, members confirmed; the foreign minister also stated there had been no major jump in the number of asylum-seekers. The Czech Republic has condemned steps taken by Russia in Ukraine and appealed to Russia not to use military force. EU foreign ministers are meeting on Monday to discuss the Ukraine crisis and possible steps by the EU and Nato.
Government to provide two billion in funding for hospitals
The Czech government will spend at least two billion crowns from the government budget reserve for the financing of hospitals Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said, discussing the matter on a commercial TV programme on Sunday. Hospitals will lack sufficient funds due to the cancellation of a hospital fee of 100 crowns per day which patients previously had to pay. The Constitutional Court cancelled the fee last January on the grounds it was "devastating" for some population groups. The prime minister said that in 2014 his government would make use of the budget reserve, saying there were four billion crowns available in such situations.
Poll suggests elections to European Parliament not considered important
A new poll by the STEM agency suggests that many Czechs regard as the least important, in the election calendar, elections to the European Parliament. The survey asked those questioned to rank elections by points. Communal elections topped the list (receiving top marks from 63 percent), followed by the general election, regional elections, the presidential election, and voting to the European Parliament. Only 27 percent of those queried gave EP elections top ranking in terms of importance. All of the political parties in the Chamber of Deputies recently announced the names of their leading candidates; the EP election is scheduled for May.
Police recommend hunter be tried for criminal negligence causing death
The police have recommended that a 39-year-old Czech hunter be charged with grievous bodily harm and criminal negligence causing death, after completing their investigation into a tragedy in the Czech Republic last summer in which one person lost his life. The hunter shot and killed a 29-year-old man who had been sleeping under a tree. He was reportedly alerted to his mistake by the victim’s friend, who shouted and waved his cap to prevent further shots. Nothing could be done to help the gravely injured man. The hunter later told investigators he had thought he was aiming at a deer; the victim’s father maintained that his son had sat up at the fateful moment and gotten in the way of fire. In the event of a trial - and guilty verdict - the hunter could face up to six years in jail.
Customs officers seize record 182 kg shipment of heroin
Czech customs officers at the weekend uncovered a record 182 kg shipment of heroin, worth almost 750 million crowns, being transported by truck. Jiří Barták, spokesman of the Customs Directorate, revealed the news on Monday, saying the shipment was the largest ever seized on Czech soil. Preliminary tests, he said, suggested the purity of the drug was 60 percent, while on the street the percentage would be far lower, around 15. The target destination, he suggested, was not the Czech Republic.
Petrol prices expected to rise mid-March
Fuel prices at filling stations in the Czech Republic will rise in about the middle of March in connection with the conflict in the Crimea largely due to higher prices of crude oil on global markets, the Czech News Agency reportED MOnday after polling analysts. Global crude oil prices reacted to growing tension between Russia and Ukraine on Monday morning and climbed to several month highs, analyst Miroslav Novák of Akcenta told ČTK. Prices of petrol and diesel oil in the Czech Republic could rise by one crown per litre in two weeks.
Meteorologists say winter season on track to be driest ‘on record’
This winter is looking to be the driest on record, the Czech Hydro-meteorological Institute reports, citing precipitation well below monthly averages: 40 percent of the average in December and 62 percent of the norm in January, officials said. Liberec, north of Prague for example, sees an average of 173 mm, but this winter registered only 65. Given this year’s winter was uncharacteristically warm, meteorologists say the dry period continuing into the spring months can be expected.