Press Review

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Details of the Russian hostage crisis fill the front pages of all the papers. There are snapshots of two medics carrying out the body of the first victim - whose fingers had reportedly been broken - and shocking eyewitness reports from people who were freed or managed to escape from the theatre. "We are scared to death. These people mean business. Please don't do anything rash" is one of the SMS messages which one of the hostages reportedly sent in the first hours of the crisis.

Details of the Russian hostage crisis fill the front pages of all the papers. There are snapshots of two medics carrying out the body of the first victim - whose fingers had reportedly been broken - and shocking eyewitness reports from people who were freed or managed to escape from the theatre. "We are scared to death. These people mean business. Please don't do anything rash" is one of the SMS messages which one of the hostages reportedly sent in the first hours of the crisis.

Pravo carries the reaction of world leaders and Czech politicians to the hostage crisis. There are offers of assistance from US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a message from NATO General Secretary George Robertson who urged the terrorists to give themselves up, saying that NATO was determined to step up its fight against all forms of international terrorism. All Czech politicians are united in the stand that nothing can justify an attack against innocent civilians.

Mlada Fronta Dnes notes that whatever their original intention, the Chechen terrorists have done their people a great disservice. The world is shocked by this brutality - shocked by the sudden flare up of international terrorism on a global scale - and even those who criticized Russia's policy towards Chechnya will now have lost all sympathy for the Chechen freedom fighters, the paper says. Moreover such actions are grist to the mill of Russian radicals who will now be in a better position to advocate a hard line policy towards Chechnya.

On the domestic scene, commentators welcome the agreement reached between Germany and France on Thursday regarding what the EU is willing to offer the 10 candidates poised for admission. The deal has removed an important hurdle on the way to EU expansion, Hospodarske Noviny says. EU decision mechanisms may be democratic and fair but there is no doubt that Germany and France are the countries which set the direction and pace of EU reform. A signal from them means a great deal, it writes.

The papers also report on President Havel's state of health which was said to have worsened on Thursday. The President's spokesman has told the papers that in spite of his illness, Mr. Havel is determined to attend the award giving ceremony at Prague Castle on the occasion of the country's state holiday on Monday, October 28th.

The president is expected to present some 70 awards for outstanding merit and bravery and, as every year, the papers speculate on whom the honors will most likely go to. The only piece of information that the president's team has let slip is that firefighters and emergency teams who saved lives in the recent flood crisis will be among the distinguished.

Mlada Fronta Dnes notes that "a hall of fame" made up of people who had received one of the country's high distinctions would be a very colourful place indeed. Among the more recently distinguished world figures are Britain's Queen Elisabeth and former US President Ronald Reagan. But, thanks to the country's communist past, they would be rubbing shoulders with the likes of former Soviet leader Leonid Breznev, the Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the Libyan leader Muammar Kaddafi or the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.