The Czech Military Intelligence Service is to confirm reports by its sister agency BIS (the Czech intelligence service) that Russian spies have been trying to influence the Czech debate over the placement of a US radar base on its territory. This was confirmed by Martin Barták, the deputy Defence Minster on Czech Television on Sunday. He stated that an upcoming annual report from the Czech Military Intelligence Service will indeed confirm the BIS allegations made public earlier in the week. Although the accusations were unspecific, the suggestion was made that Russian agents are trying to influence and even finance the anti-radar movement in the country. Public opinion remains largely opposed to the radar, while the leading anti-radar group “Ne Základnam” has flatly rejected that it has any Russian connections. The government is set to probe its intelligence services on the matter next week.
A copy of the original Munich Agreement, the document which in 1938 gutted Czechoslovakia by ceding its Sudeten territories to Hitler, has been placed on display in the Czech Senate. In a decision made to mark St. Wenceslas day, parts of the Senate not normally opened to the public were opened, including a salon overlooking the Valdštejn Gardens and the office of the Deputy Head of the Senate Jiří Liška. The Munich Agreement will be visible in the Senate’s display hall. The copy was given to the Czech Republic in September, and was followed by a surprise announcement that the original document would also be loaned to the Czech Republic and be placed on display in Prague’s National Museum.
Police in the Czech town of Hodonín have intervened to prevent a planned concert to be staged by Neo-Nazis. The decision was taken to prevent Neo-Nazis from clashing with Roma demonstrators and also a group of anarchists. The police intervention ultimately prevented the Neo-Nazis from gathering in Hodonín, but it was later discovered that they had held a gathering and concert some 20 kilometers from the town, near a village called Šardice. Police have stated that they did not intervene during this gathering as no laws were broken. Locals in the village have stated that they had no idea that such a gathering would take place in their area.
The Czech-Moravian Communist Party has been accused of re-writing history following a recent statement issued by the party to mark the anniversary of the 1938 Munich agreement. The statement by the communists places heavy emphasis on the actions of the Soviet Union to liberate Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, while critics asserts that it neglects to mention either Western Allied efforts, or the initial opposition to Nazism by the West at a time when the Nazis and the USSR were essentially allies under the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. The communist statement also alludes to the Munich Agreement as being a betrayal by the West. Historians quoted by the Czech online news-server Aktualne.cz have dismissed the statements as biased in favour of Russia, which they argue was just as, if not more hesitant to save or protect Czechoslovakia during the early part of WWII.
The Malostranská Beseda or “Meeting Place” a former local town hall had the last of its former copper domes reinstated on Sunday. The domes were removed in 1828, and heated discussions have taken place in recent times as to whether the building should be restored to its original 17th century form. Protracted reconstruction of the building has been underway since 2007, with the cost of returning the domes estimated at 26 million crowns. The project is set to be completed in the middle of next year. After that time, local authorities have plans to make the building into the cultural centre of the Malostranská area in the centre of Prague.
In celebrations to mark Czech national day, a spruced up version of the Czech national hymn “Kde Domov Můj” premieres at the Czech National Theatre in Prague on Sunday evening. Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, in an unusual move, requested that the hymn be modernized for the occasion. The result is slightly different orchestration and an altered tempo.
The Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has dismissed talk of an impending economic slowdown in the Czech Republic. The comments were made on Czech Television on Sunday. The Finance Minister also addressed the current financial crisis in the US, saying that the government would not bailout companies if a similar situation arose in the Czech Republic. A number of Czech companies, including porcelain maker Krystalex have been facing growing debt problems in recent weeks. Mr Kalousek also stated that cuts would have to be made to the state budget.
Under a newly unveiled government education proposal, head-teachers will be able to “correct” grades given to pupils that have been found to be unfair, reported the daily Hospodářské Noviny on Sunday. The bill passed its first reading in parliament last week, and is designed to bypass the current system in which a disputed grading leads to the pupil having to re-sit a test.
The shockwaves of the government’s double legislative defeat on Friday continue to be felt within political circles – with one newspaper headline simply calling it PM Topolánek’s “Black Friday”. Legislation calling for the abolition of doctor’s fees for children, seniors and those in poverty proposed by the opposition Social Democrats passed its second reading in parliament after gaining the support of Christian Democrat MP Ludvík Hovorka, Green Party MP Olga Zubová, Social Democrat rebels Evžen Snitilý and Petr Wolf and former Civic Democrat MP Juraj Raněnec. The vote was seen as a severe blow to an embattled Civic Democratic party reeling from various scandals and infighting – and in particular to Health Minister Tomáš Julínek, the co-architect of the current doctor’s fees. A second opposition bill to reduce petrol taxes also passed its first reading.
Foreign Minister Karel Shwarzenberg has conceded that the current financial crisis in the US could delay the building of a proposed missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic as the US Congress seeks cutbacks on spending. Both major US presidential candidates are committed to the scheme, albeit with certain reservations about assuring its functionality. In comments made at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Mr Schwarzenberg also stated that Czech officials had been in contact with both Senators Obama and McCain with regards to the project. The Czech Republic’s parliament has not yet ratified a treaty on the base, although a vote is expected by the end of this year.
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