News Friday, FEBRUARY 20th, 1998

Radio Prague E news Date: February 20th,1998 Written / read by: Alena Skodova

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm AS and we start as usual with the headlines:

Those were the main points and now the news in detail:

Czech citizen kidnapped in Georgia

A Czech citizen, member of the UN Observers' mission in Georgia is one of four workers of the mission kindapped by armed men in the early morning hours of Wednesday in the Western part of the country. Representatives of the Georgian agency Gruzinform as well as officials of the Czech Defence ministry confirmed this for the Czech CTK news agency. The kidnapped Czech is lieutenant-colonel Jaroslav Kulisek. With him, a Swedish and two Uruquayan citizens are being held hostage. According to local sources, the attackers destroyed four and seized one vehicle belonging to the mission. Georgian Interior minister Kacha Targamadze announced that the hostages had been kidnapped near the town of Zugdidi. He also said that the police had surrounded the kidnappers and the hostages some 20 kilometres North of Zugdidi and started negotiations with the kidnappers, who asked to exchage the hostages for persons who were arrested several days ago in connection with an attempted assasination of Georgian president Eduard Sevardnadze and to set free all political prisoners. The attackers are supporters of the late Georgian president Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

Skalicky quits ODA

Deputy premier Jiri Skalicky will quit as chairman of the Civic democratic alliance party - ODA - due to a controversy over secret party donations. The CTK news agency quoted Katerina Lojdova, an advisor to the chairman, as saying Skalicky would present his resignation on Friday to the ODA's executive committee because he was disgusted with the party's handling of the affair. Skalicky, who is also Environment minister offered to resign his posts in the caretaker cabinet on Monday as the controversy in ODA grew, although he has not been personally implicated.

Better protection of Romanies

Following an incident last Sunday night when three members of the skinhead movement threw a Romany woman into the Elbe river in Vrchlabi, and the woman - a mother of 4 - drowned in the icy and fast moving water, representative of the Romany minority in Austria, Rudolf Sarkozi has called on the Czech government to ensure better protection of the Romany population in the Czech republic. "I appeal on all responsible politicians in the Czech republic to ensure reliable protection of the Romany people," said the Chairman of the Cultural association of Austrian Romanies, and added that a country, which is to become a member of the European Union must not overlook attacks such as that in Vrchlabi. "It is probably not an accident that several months ago hundreds of Romanies were fleeing to Canada and Great Britain to seek asylum there," said Sarkozi. Meanwhile, at the Vrchlabi hospital, minister Vladimir Mlynar has expressed his admiration and thanked Eliska Pilarova of Czech radio for attempting to rescue the Romany woman and president Havel has sent a message of condolence to her parents.

Czechs favour admission to EU

The majority of Czech citizens - 61 percent - would support the Czech republic's admission to the European Union. Their number has been growing constantly: last September 58 percent of Czech people expressed their support for our republic's membership of the EU, and in March 1996 that figure was even lower: only 42 percent. The poll was conducted by the Public opinion research institute earlier this month. On the other hand, the number of people who believe that the Czech republic will not be able to meet EU demands is lower. While in 1997, it was 63 percent of Czech citizens, this year their number dropped to 57 percent. University graduates are more optimistic, while people with elementary education hold rather pessimistic views about the Czech republic becoming a member of the European Union.

At the Olympic games in Nagano, the Czech republic beat favourites Canada for a place in the final of the Olympic men's ice-hockey tournament. The Czech won a penalty shoot 1:0 after a 1:1 draw at the end of overtime with another brilliant performance from goaltender Dominik Hasek.


And finally the weather: we expect a sunny day with daily highs up to 13 degrees Celsius.