News

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Slovak foreign minister: Russia will aim missiles at US installations

Slovakia’s Foreign Minister Ján Kubiš said on Friday that Russia has repeated warnings it will aim missiles at US installations planned in the Czech Republic and neighbouring Poland - part of a broader defense shield. Mr Kubiš revealed the news after meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Bucharest. He added that while Moscow clearly continues to oppose the system, it was apparent Russia would search for ways to accept the project. At the NATO Summit on Thursday it was announced that the US had reached agreement with the Czech Republic on the siting of its radar base on Czech soil. NATO countries also fully backed the US plan, saying the project would be integrated into a future NATO system.

Radar base, US missile defense, not addressed in Putin speech

In related news, Russia’s outgoing President Vladimir Putin made no mention of the planned US radar base or missile defense during a much-anticipated speech at the NATO summit on Friday. Czech President Václav Klaus called the omission “fairly surprising”. Russia has continually expressed strong opposition to US plans.

National security council to discuss SOFA agreement

Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has confirmed that next Tuesday the country’s National Security Council will discuss the Czech-US SOFA (Status of Forces) agreement, defining the status of US troops on Czech soil in connection with the planned radar base. A new round of bilateral talks between the US and the Czech Republic is then to continue on Wednesday, with a final agreement expected by April 11. Defence Minister Vlasta Parkánová said on Thursday that the Security Council should now decide whether to preserve the mandate of Czech negotiators or make modifications. Besides covering the legal status of US soldiers, the SOFA also deals with environmental and transport issues as well as other factors including controls by authorities over construction and taxation.

Police break-up British-led gang

Czech police have broken up a British-led gang producing the methamphetamine pervetin for the British black market. Police said on Friday the gang’s lab was one of the largest uncovered in recent years, producing an estimated half-kilo of the drug per week. Five were arrested in the round up, there of them Czechs; if found guilty they could face up to 15 years in prison. According to officials, the pervetin was produced using store-bought medicines; the lab itself was uncovered in a Prague garage. Last year more than 2,000 individuals were reportedly arrested in the Czech Republic for involvement in drug-related crimes – the vast majority of them Czech nationals. Some 130 were foreigners, officials say.

Supreme Court upholds sentence in bribery case

The Supreme Court has confirmed an earlier 20-month suspended prison sentence for Pavel Šrytr for attempting to bribe Social Democrat MP and Olympic medallist Pavel Ploc two years ago. The MP was offered the bribe as enticement for switching Parliamentary parties shortly after the 2006 election ended in deadlock. Lower instance courts in east Bohemia ruled on the sentence in 2007. The Supreme Court rejected Mr Šrytr's appeal last year, but the announcement was only just released. In the past Pavel Šrytr, a former bodyguard, admitted meeting with MP Ploc but denied any wrongdoing.

New documents on Mašíns found

The head of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Pavel Žáček, has revealed the finding of new documents pertaining to the Mašín brothers - members of an anti-communist resistance group who shot their way out of Communist Czechoslovakia. The documents reportedly date to the interrogation of family member Ctibor Novák, later executed by the regime. The documents suggest that under questioning Mr Novák admitted that the Mašíns had planned to abduct Communist Defence Minister Alexej Čepicka as well to conduct acts of sabotage. It is plausible the statements were made under the threat of violence by the secret police. Not long ago the Mašíns, along with resistance group member Milan Paumer, were recognised by Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek for their willingness to fight against the Communist regime in the 1950s.

Film by Estonian director to receive top prize at Febiofest

“Magnus” by Estonian director Kadri Koussar has been chosen as top film at the Czech Republic’s Febiofest film festival. The director is to be awarded the prize – which includes a cheque for 5,000 euros (the equivalent of about 7,800 US dollars) - on the festival’s closing night. The prize will be awarded by Czech-British architect and jury head Jan Kaplický. “Magnus” is said to tell the story of a teen who, having overcome serious illness in childhood, is unable to give up an obsession with suicide, leading a family member to try and intervene.

NHL action: Jágr’s Rangers secure Stanley Cup playoff spot

In the NHL on Thursday Jaromír Jágr’s New York Rangers defeated local rivals the New York Islanders 3-0 to secure a spot in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Jágr – the Ranger’s captain – scored twice in the 1st period, while compatriot Martin Straka added a third. The Rangers have one game left to play in the regular season, against the New Jersey Devils. A win would push the Rangers into the 4th spot in the Eastern Conference – giving them home ice advantage in the playoffs.

In other action on Thursday, the Nashville Predators secured the final spot in the Western Conference by downing St Louis 3-2. Jan Hlaváč assisted on all three goals, seeing him named 1st star.

Weather

Partly cloudy skies are expected into the weekend. Daytime temperatures should reach highs of around 10 degrees Celsius. Sunday is to see an increasing chance of rain.