News

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Gorbachev: Czech-Russian relations to further improve

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who turns 75 this week, told journalists in Moscow on Monday that he believed that relations between the Czech Republic and Russia would further improve in the future, indicating economic issues would play a dominant role. Mr Gorbachev made the comment ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's upcoming visit to the Czech Republic this week. Discussing Czech issues, the former Soviet leader expressed regret over the 1968 Soviet-led invasion that crushed Czechoslovakia's Prague Spring - the reform movement dubbed 'socialism with a human face'. He called the decision to intervene "a mistake", indicating it had had a fateful impact on both countries.

German minister reacts to Czech 'waste tourism' appeal

Germany's Minister for the Environment Sigmar Gabriel has said that the German government will try to prevent the further importing of illegal waste from Germany to the Czech Republic. The minister was reacting to a recent letter from his Czech counterpart appealing German authorities to act to prevent illegal waste being transported across the border. A Czech environment ministry inspection team recently uncovered that no less than 15,000 tonnes of illegal waste were smuggled into the Czech Republic and stored at various locations around the country in recent months.

Antitrust office to start proceedings against medicine wholesalers

The Czech antitrust office has said that will begin administrative proceedings against companies that halted medicine supplies to three teaching hospitals. The bureau will be attempting to uncover whether the companies entered into a cartel agreement. The announcement was made on Monday by the antitrust bureau's Martin Pecina, but the Czech Association of Wholesale Drug Distributors, has denied any cartel agreement. Two weeks ago four medicines wholesalers stopped supplies to three Czech hospitals over outstanding debt (Prague's Bulovka and Thomayer teaching hospitals and the St Ann Teaching Hospital in Brno). They owe distributors 400 million crowns - the equivalent of almost 17 million US dollars.

One of the four members of the association, Pharmos, resumed supplies, but is expected to halt them again this week.

The country's health minister, David Rath, is among those who suspect the medicines distributors of a cartel agreement. But, Mr Rath himself has come under criticism by the International Association of Pharmaceutical Companies, which has likened his plan to select a sole supplier as breaching rules of economic competition.

Hospitals to receive some 350 million crowns

In related news, the teaching hospitals in debt will receive some 350 million crowns - divided up by the Health Ministry - this week to begin paying off some of their debt. The decision is in keeping with the health minister's plan to help the hospitals recover by the end of the current government's term in June 2006. On Monday, Health Minster David Rath and Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka met to discuss the issue, with the health minister saying the Health Ministry would have to modify its annual budget. According to Mr Rath the hospitals' total liabilities are worth 2 billion crowns. The ministry expected to find between 700 and 800 million to help the hospitals out of financial difficulty.

Euro: Czech soldiers in Iraq to receive anti-mine jamming equipment

The Internet server Euro on-line has reported that Czech forces in Iraq are due to receive special jamming equipment in March. According to the news site, the equipment should allow Czech specialists to safely de-fuse mines. But, further specifics of the delivery are not known. Currently a small contingent of Czech military police train Iraqi police in the country's second-largest city of Basra.

Weather

Tuesday is expected to be cloudy with a few sunny periods. Daytime temperatures are expected to hover at around 1 degree Celsius.