Plans to expand the US anti-missile defence shield to central Europe is an issue strictly between the United States, the Czech Republic and Poland, NATO spokesman James Appathurai told journalists on Tuesday. He also referred to the conclusions of NATO’ Bucharest Summit, held in April this year, where NATO member states acknowledged the reality of a missile threat and agreed that an anti-missile defence shield was “appropriate”. The reassurance came days after the EU-Russia summit during which French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev that the planned shield would not enhance European security. The Russian president had threatened earlier that if the US went ahead with plans to deploy a radar base in the Czech Republic and a launching pad with intercepting missiles in Poland his country would position missiles in the Kaliningrad area in retaliation.
Three Czech soldiers were wounded in the Afghan province of Logar on Tuesday after their vehicle hit a land mine. The soldiers, members of the Czech Army’s Provincial Reconstruction Team, only suffered minor injuries and were treated back at the Shank military base. The explosion was caused by an improvised land mine, a spokesperson for the Czech Army said, and damaged the front part of the vehicle. The incident was the latest in a series of attacks on the Czech contingent in the region; three Czech soldiers have died since the beginning of the Afghan mission in 2007.
The police have accused 12 people in connection with the neo-Nazi rally that took place in the northern Bohemian town of Litvínov on Monday. Ten men and two women, including a 31-year-old foreign national, are suspected of breach of public order and hate speech. Monday saw one of the largest far right-wing marches in the country’s recent history when around 500 neo-Nazis attempted to enter a part of the town inhabited mostly by the Romany community; 14 people were injured in clashes with riot police as a result.
The Česká Hlava awards were presented to outstanding Czech scientists in Prague on Tuesday. Chemist Pavel Hobza won the major award for his discovery of false hydrogen bonds; other awards went to Alena Čížková for her studies of mutated genes, and Vladimir Soukup for research of teeth development in vertebrae. The Česká Hlava awards project was launched six years ago by private companies and has become one of the most prestigious events in the world of science.
The National Theatre in Prague commemorated on Tuesday the 125th anniversary of its re-opening in 1883, two years after it was devastated by fire. The anniversary was commemorated by the opera The Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana and a performance by the choir Hlahol, an ensemble with a long tradition which also re-opened the theatre in 1883. The occasion was also be marked by the unveiling of a reconstructed three-horse chariot statue on the building’s front.
President Václav Klaus was noticeably absent at ceremonies marking the 19th anniversary of the fall of communism on Monday. His spokesman denied that the president was ill, telling journalists that Mr. Klaus needed some rest after a packed agenda in the preceding weeks. The president is also reportedly getting ready for his hearing before the Constitutional Court on the Lisbon treaty, scheduled for next week.
June 30 might become the Occupation Armies Withdrawal from Czechoslovak Territory Day to mark the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country. If the proposition by a group of deputies is approved by Parliament, the day will commemorate the withdrawal of more than 73,000 Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia in 1991 where they were stationed since the Soviet-led invasion of the country in 1968.
The Supreme Court sentenced two Vietnamese citizens on Tuesday to 10 and 11 years in prison for drug dealing. The two men sold methamphetamine in northern Bohemia to German nationals who smuggled it across the border to Germany. The police were however unable to trace the source of the drug. The court rejected the men’s plea that they weren’t part of a gang; if this was the case, the sentences would have been lower.
Preparations get underway in northern Bohemia for the world championship in Nordic skiing to be held in February 2009. Taking advantage of sub-zero temperatures, the organizers started producing artificial snow for skiing tracks around the city of Liberec where most of the events will take place. During a world cup event last year, snow had to be transported to the venue from the surrounding mountains. The fact that world championship will take place in a region that suffers from a lack of natural snow due to its altitude has been criticized by environmental organizations.
Czechs are marking the 19th anniversary of the fall of communism and the return of democracy to their country. Nineteen years ago today the communist police cracked down on an unarmed student demonstration, sparking nationwide solidarity and setting in motion a series of mass protests that led to the fall of communism. Leading politicians, cultural figures and members of the public on Monday visited memorials to the victims of communism on Wenceslas Square, Národní třída and other sites in the Czech Republic to lay flowers and light candles in memory of those who fought against oppression. The commemorative ceremonies are also linked to an earlier anniversary – a student march in 1939 held in protest against the Nazi occupation that was brutally suppressed. The protest served as a pretext for more reprisals against Czech intellectuals. The Nazis raided a university campus on the night of November 17, nine students were executed without a trial and 1200 were deported to the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen. All Czech universities were then closed.
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