News Sunday, MAY 07th, 2000

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Czech-Russian relations sour over Chechnya

There is continued friction between the Czech Republic and Russia over the situation in Chechnya. The Russian foreign ministry has demanded that Prague clarify the meaning of an article in the Czech daily Lidove Noviny in which President Havel pointed out that Chechnya had not always been part of the Russian federation and that Chechens should be allowed to decide in a referendum whether they wanted to retain that status. At a commemorative ceremony for the victims of the war in Chechnya held under his auspices at Prague Castle, President Havel told newsmen he had not intended to question Russia's integrity. He pointed out however that, in view of continued violation of human rights in Chechya, the Council of Europe should terminate Russia's membership at least on a temporary basis. Meanwhile, the Czech Prime Minister said in his own response to Moscow, that the while there was no doubt that Chechnya was an integral part of Russia, he would have expected a war against terrorists to be waged by police units and certainly not against the civilian population.

Havel tells Germany Benes decrees will not be abolished

On the eve of a state visit to Germany, President Vaclav Havel has made it clear that the Czech Republic is not prepared to rescind the so-called Benes decrees, which legalized the post war expulsion of over two million Sudeten Germans from this country. The Czech head of state said in an interview for ARD TV that while the Czech Republic had taken certain steps to right old wrongs, and more would doubtless be made in future, abolishing the Benes decrees would not be one of them. The Czech President thus put an end to speculation that this issue might be on the agenda of bilateral talks. According to a foreign ministry statement the aim of the four day state visit is to boost bilateral ties and discus the European integration process.

Pilsen celebrates liberation from the Nazis

The West Bohemian town of Pilsen is celebrating the 55th anniversary of its liberation by US troops. As usual a number of US SWW veterans have accepted the invitation to attend the celebrations as guests of honour and the coming two days are packed with events – a military parade, a veterans-car ride, a trip on a steam-powered train, an air show organized by the Czech Airforce and a fireworks display, among others.

Please legalize marihuana!

A group of 300 young people gathered on Prague's Namesti Miru on Saturday afternoon to demonstrate for the legalization of marihuana in the Czech Republic. They argue that since marihuana is no more dangerous that alcohol or cigarettes in is nonsensical to put it on par with drugs such as heroin or LSD. One of the organizers told the CTK news agency that this was not an anti- government demonstration since the government was already considering amending the existing drugs law to distinguish between hard and soft drugs. "We just want to give them an extra push in the right direction " the youth said.

Now– a news story to prove that the Czech Republic is still an attractive destination for everyone. A stowaway raccoon arrived in style on Friday –self- satisfied, fat and sassy – as it emerged from a Canadian shipping container in the town of Pardubice. It had survived the trip on beer and dog food which it found in the container , opening the cans and cartons with its needle-sharp teeth and claws. It led the warehouse employees a tipsy two hour chase before surrendering. The wily immigrant has been given a new home in a Czech zoo. Although this is a country of beer lovers it will probably be put on a slightly different diet.

And finally a look at the weather : Sunday should dawn bright and sunny with day temps rising to between 23 and 27 degs C.