News Saturday, MAY 09th, 1998

date: May 8th-9th, 1998 written/read by: Daniela Lazarova

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm DL and we begin as usual with a look at the main newsstories this hour

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail:

WWII anniversary

Commemorative ceremonies have been held across the country marking the 53rd anniversary of the end of WWII. The day is a national holiday in the Czech Republic. Czech top officials, among them prime minister Josef Tosovsky, and the speakers of both houses of Parliament, laid wreaths at the Unknown Soldier memorial at Prague's National Cemetary paying tribute to all who laid down their lives in the fight for freedom. Over 250,000 Czechs lost their lives in the war.

Awards, promotions

Traditionally on this day the President , as commander-in-chief of the Czech Armed Forces promotes members of the military and hands out awards for bravery. In the President's absence the ceremony was conducted by Ivan Medek, head of the President's Office and defense minister Michal Lobkowicz who promoted a number of generals and handed out 24 awards for merit, including one to Jiri Cempirek, an officer recently wounded in a helicopter crash in Bosnia.

March against fascism

Meanwhile the German Initiative against Racism together with the Czech Freedom Union of veterans against Fascism marked the occasion with a public protest march. The event was conceived as a warning against the growing threat of neo-nazism and neo-fascism in Europe. Despite the presence of police, the event was slightly marred by an incident in which a group of skinheads attacked a dark©skinned participant. Five skinheads were arrested by police on the spot while the man was taken to hospital for treatment.

Visa-free travel

The Czech Republic and Brazil plan to introduce visa-free travel. Czech defense minister Jaroslav Sedivy who is on a week-long tour of Latin America, told the ctk an agreement on visa-free travel could be signed within the next couple of months. A similar deal is in the pipeline with Argentina, which the Czech foreign minister visited earlier this week.

Film Festival

The Golden Prague Film Festival has ended with the main prize going to the Canadian documentary Sostakovic against Stalin, directed by Larry Weinstein. The jury was unanimous over the choice saying the film was a masterpiece in the way it combined music, archive material and personal testimonies. Viewers have described it as a powerful testimony of oppression. Prizes also went to Winter Travels presented by British Channel 4 and Contrecoup presented by Television Swiss Romande.

Election hopes

Now, on a lighter note , as elections draw close - and they are scheduled for June 19th and 20th - the pace is hotting up. For instance today candidates for the Freedom Union underwent "media training" sessions to give them an edge over their opponents. Candidates are tackling the growing pressure in different ways - for instance interior minister Cyril Svoboda of the Christian Democrats has publicly promised to shave his head if his party gets over 10% of the vote in Prague. Some call it wishful thinking, but opposition mp Pavel Dostal quipped he was greatly looking forward to the interior minister's new skinhead image.

Finally, the weather here in central Europe could not be better.

Sunshine, clear skies and temps between 22 and 26 degs C are expected to stay with us for the next two to three days at least.