News

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Putin, Klaus meet in Moscow

Czech President Vaclav Klaus - on his first official state visit to Russia - has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin. Their discussion on Friday focused on Czech-Russian relations but most notably on the United State's plans to deploy a tracking radar in the Czech Republic as part of a broader missile defence shield. The plan is one that Mr Klaus has backed but which Moscow strongly opposes. During their meeting Mr Klaus said that the base was not intended against Russia. But speaking with journalists after the meeting Mr Putin indicated he had not been convinced by Mr Klaus's reasoning. He called the US plan to install a rocket base in Poland a "similar threat" to the deployment of Pershing missiles in Europe. The rocket base in Poland is to complement the radar base in the Czech Republic if both countries reach agreement with the United States.

Newspaper: police complete Cunek investigation

The Czech newspaper Pravo has reported that police have concluded their investigation into a corruption case involving former mayor of Vsetin and current Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek. According to the daily's Friday edition, investigators will propose the state attorney prepare the case for prosecution. Mr Cunek is alleged to have accepted a 500,000 crown bribe from the owner of a real estate firm in return for the sale of the majority stake in a Vsetin housing company. Both Mr Cunek and the company owner have denied any wrong-doing. The investigation into the deputy prime minister's business dealings has complicated his position in the government for some time, with coalition members the Greens earlier calling on Mr Cunek to step down.

Czech negotiators discuss EU institutional reform

Czech negotiators for the preparation of a new EU constitutional treaty have met with representatives of the German EU presidency and presented the Czech position on the treaty, Czech MEP Jan Zahradil has said. Mr Zahradil revealed that he and other representatives had presented a proposition under which EU member countries would not have to take part in some EU projects. He said that the Czech government also wanted to look into whether some powers were more effectively dealt with on the EU level or on the national level. Germany holds the EU presidency until June and wants to push forward EU institutional reform that slowed after France and the Netherlands rejected the EU draft constitution in referenda two years ago.

Aktualne.cz: Social Democratic Party presses charges against former deputy chairman

The Czech Internet server aktualne.cz has reported that the Social Democratic Party has pressed charges against former deputy chairman Ivo Svoboda, allegedly for his role in preparing a supposedly disadvantageous contract with lawyer Zdenek Altner ten years ago. The lawyer is suing the party for twenty billion crowns (the equivalent of almost 1 billion US dollars) in unpaid fees. Mr Svoboda was deputy chairman in Milos Zeman's government. According to aktualne.cz, charges will not be pressed against Mr Zeman who signed the actual deal. Ivo Svodoba is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for embezzling funds from a private company.

Austrian anti-Temelin demonstrators block border crossings

Austrian demonstrators opposed to the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power plant sixty kilometres from the Austrian border blocked a number of border crossings on Friday in protest. The activists have reacted to what they call reluctance by the Austrian government to file a lawsuit against the Czech Republic for the alleged violation of the Melk agreement on provision of information about the plant. Activists contend that the Czech Republic is reluctant to observe previous agreements on Temelin. Reacting on Friday Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek told journalists that blockades at the border amounted to the violation of the freedom of movement. But he said that the Czech government would not pursue legal steps.

Number of road deaths down one fifth in five years

According to European Commission statistics released on Friday the number of road traffic deaths fell by one fifth in the Czech Republic in the past five years. In 2001, traffic accidents claimed 1,334 lives compared to 1,063 last year. Police attribute the drop in the number of road deaths in large measure to new legislation introduced in 2006. At the same time, the statistics show that too many Czech drivers and passengers do not take the mandatory use of seat belts seriously enough: 72 percent of passengers in front use them regularly, while only 41 percent use them in back. The Czech Republic fares better regarding drink driving, with a fairly low five percent of deaths that are alcohol-related. The Czech Republic also has a lower number of deaths among youths behind the wheel between the ages of 18 and 25.

Trade & Industry minister given anti-environment award

The non-governmental environmental organisation Deti Zeme (Children of the Earth) has awarded Trade & Industry Minister Martin Riman the "Ropak" award for 2006 for most anti-environmental policies. Deti Zeme voted amongst twenty candidates. According to the organisation, Mr Riman was chosen for supporting the broadening of brown coal mining in northern Bohemia and the construction of an additional two units at the Temelin nuclear power plant, as well as attempting to raise limits on emissions. The Ropak award is named after a fictional creature that lives off of industrial waste, which was invented by director Jan Sverak in a famous mock-documentary.

Classical musicians, conductors remember Rostropovich

Czech classical musicians are among those mourning the passing of Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich who died in Moscow at the age of 80 on Friday. Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Zdenek Macal, and the director of the Prague Spring Festival Roman Belor, stated Mr Rostropovich was one of the greatest figures in classical music in the second half of the 20th century, with Mr Macal praising Mr Rostropovich as an "excellent musician, conductor, as well as a humanist and fantastic person". Cellist Jitka Vlasankova on Friday recalled memories of Mr Rostropovich conducting a charity concert in London in the 1980s.

The Russian conductor and performer had close ties to Prague and the Czech Republic: after the Soviet-led invasion of 1968 he said he would not perform in Czechoslovakia again until the last Soviet solider had left. Mr Rostropovich kept his word and performed in Prague in 1991, nine days after the last troops departed.

Czech star Poborsky returns to international football

Czech Republic former international midfielder Karel Poborsky will rejoin the national team as its technical manager, the Czech and Moravian Football Federation announced on Thursday. Mr Poborsky will take up the new post for the friendly against Austria in August but will join the group earlier to help the team's preparations for the Euro-2008 qualification group game against Wales on June 2nd. Mr Poborsky said that he was delighted with the offer and had accepted it gladly. The former Manchester United and Lazio Rome player retired from the Czech international team in July last year after its disappointing exit from the last World Cup.

Sharks down Detroit 2:0

The Detroit Red Wings - with Czech goalie Dominik Hasek - have lost their first match in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs to the San Jose Sharks. Facing 19 shots on Thursday night, Hasek was beaten twice in the first period. The Red Wings never got on board: netminder Evgeni Nabakov blanked all 34 of Detroit's attempts. Game 2 of the series takes place in Detroit on Saturday.

Weather

Mostly clear skies are expected into the weekend, with daytime temperatures reaching highs of around 26 degrees Celsius.