News Monday, FEBRUARY 23rd, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News Date: February 23, 1998 Written/read by: Libor Kubik

These are the top stories from Prague. Now the news in more detail, read by Libor Kubik.

CZECH-HOCKEY-GOLD

The Czech Republic is staging a rousing welcome to its national ice-hockey team, who won the gold medal in Sunday's Olympic final with Russia in Nagano. The winning team were expected to arrive in Prague on Monday afternoon.

The Czechs completed an astonishing run through the tournament with a thrilling 1-0 victory over Russia. Russia took the silver medal and Finland the bronze.

Jubilant crowds turned central Prague into a massive street party on Sunday as they hailed the national team's historic Olympic gold medal.

A crowd, which Czech television put at 70,000, braved the pre- dawn chill to watch the early morning final on three huge screens in Prague's Old Town Square.

In the country where ice hockey is the national passion, young and old embraced and sang "We are the champions". Many wept and kissed their flags as the national anthem played.

HAVEL-HOSPITAL-RELEASE

Hockey took precedence for a change over the Czech Republic's political and economic problems. The participants in two regular nationally televised debates discussed sports at length before turning to comments and arguments over domestic political issues.

Czech President Vaclav Havel, who underwent minor throat surgery last Wednesday, was released from hospital on Sunday and congratulated the national hockey team on their historic success in Nagano.

Havel sent a telegram to greet the team and then phoned Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek shortly after the 1-0 win over Russia.

The president sent his plane to bring the victorious team home and said he would like to meet the players in person.

Sixty-one-year-old Havel had the operation to close a hole left by a tracheostomy performed to aid his breathing after cancer surgery on his lungs more than one year ago.

CZECH-UNION-LEADER

Former Czech interior minister Jan Ruml was on Sunday elected leader of a new right-of-centre party formed by rebels from former premier Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party, the ODS.

The Freedom Union was established earlier this year after rebels split from the ODS after a row over party financing. The row led to the collapse of the government in late November.

Mr Ruml was interior minister for five years until he resigned for personal reasons late last year.

According to the latest polls, the union is supported by almost 11 percent of voters, the same as the ODS.

Members of the Freedom Union include Finance Minister Ivan Pilip, Regional Development Minister Jan Cerny and Defence Minister Michal Lobkowicz.

CZECH-BRNO-RACIST-POLICE

Police in the second-biggest Czech city, Brno, detained a man on Sunday and accused him of attempted murder, rowdyism and active support of a movement planning to curtail civil rights and freedoms.

The police said the youth, one of a group of three skinheads, shouted fascist slogans and salutes during a ride on a night bus on Sunday, and brutally attacked a fellow-passenger.

The badly beaten man was then thrown out from the bus. He is in hospital and his condition is said to be serious.

Our correspondent says this is the latest in a series of racist attacks in which several people have died over the past few months.

GEORGIA-CZECH-GUNMEN

Georgian gunmen released a Uruguayan serviceman on Sunday but continued to hold three other U.N. military observers, including a Czech officer and several local people after a four-day siege.

The gunmen, professed followers of Georgia's late first president Zviad Gamsakhurdia, who was ousted in 1992, were still holding another Uruguayan, a Swede, and Czech colonel Jaroslav Kulisek from a U.N. monitoring force.

CZECH-WEATHER

A quick look at the weather -- and Monday will be a trifle colder than the weekend in the Czech Republic, with afternoon highs between six and 10 degrees Celsius above zero, and around three degrees above freezing in the mountains.

An outlook for Tuesday and Wednesday -- a cold front will be advancing across Germany and Poland to the southeast, and will influence the weather here as well. Tuesday will be cloudy day with scattered rain or snow showers at an altitude, nighttime lows from zero to four Celsius, and afternoon highs from five to nine.

Wednesday will bring us more of the same, with early morning lows from minus one to plus three degrees Celsius, and maximum daytime temperatures from eight to 12 degrees.

And that's the end of the news.