Czech prime minister Jan Fischer and other state officials have attended a ceremony outside the Czech Radio building to mark the 41st anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968. Speaking at the event, Mr Fischer emphasised the pivotal role of Czechoslovak Radio in the days following the Warsaw Pact invasion which crushed the Prague Spring reform movement. Over 100 people were killed and more than 500 injured in clashes with the occupational forces by the end of 1968. The Czechoslovak Radio building in Prague was the scene of some of the heaviest clashes between Soviet troops and Czech protesters in August 1968.
Civic Democrat senator and former deputy prime minister Alexandr Vondra has said the Czech political left underestimates Russia’s efforts to exercise its influence in Central Europe, including the Czech Republic. Speaking on the 41st anniversary of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia on Friday, Mr Vondra said the occasion raised questions whether Social Democrat chairman Jiří Paroubek and his deputy Lubomír Zaorálek would like to return the Czech Republic to the Russian sphere of influence. Mr Vondra and Civic Democrat deputy Marek Benda again criticised Mr Paroubek's trip to Moscow in June where he held talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin without consulting the Czech embassy.
The Czech government has announced it will purchase a million doses of swine flue vaccine, enough to immunise half a million people. Speaking after an extraordinary cabinet session on Friday, Prime Minister Jan Fischer said the vaccines would be supplied by the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which won the contract over rival bidder, Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis. Doctors, nurses and other public health workers will be the first to be immunised, Mr Fischer said. The first delivery is expected in Prague at the end of September. In the 10-million Czech Republic, 217 cases of swine flu infection have been confirmed so far. No one has died of the illness.
Civic Democrat chairman and former prime minister Mirek Topolánek has been slightly injured when a group of unknown assailants threw rocks at him, hitting him in the head. The incident occurred on Friday in the south Moravian town of Hustopeče where Mr Topolánek, who is Civic Democrat election leader in the region, appeared at a rally ahead of October’s general elections. According to the party’s spokesman, Mr Topolánek received medical attention on the spot and continues in his campaign. Police are investigating the incident.
The head of the Czech Chamber of Commerce, Petr Kužel, says Czech businesses welcome the possibility of a four-day working week, as proposed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in a bid to reduce unemployment. According to the ministry’s plan, the government would reimburse companies for the salaries of people out of work due to lack of business. Mr Kužel said the measure should be introduced as soon as possible. According to the ministry, the plan is not expected to be launched before mid 2010 as several laws need to be amended.
Czechs spent more than 40 billion crowns (2.2 billion USD) in out-of-pocket medical payments last year on supplies and services not covered by medical insurance, according to data from the Czech Institute of Health Information and Statistics. The amount includes 5 billion crowns collected in healthcare fees and makes up for just over one sixth of overall healthcare costs in the country which stood at 259 billion crowns last year. Between 2004 and 2008, the volume of patient co-payment rose by two percent, from 24.4 billion to 40.1 billion crowns.
Defence Minister Martin Barták has said that municipalities in the vicinity of the NATO radar in Sokolnice, south Moravia, will not be compensated as the radar does not pose a health risk to the public. Speaking ahead of his meeting with local mayors on Friday, Mr Barták said the radar would not be put into operation if testing revealed any irregularities. The radar is meant to monitor the airspace over Moravia and along with another installation in east Bohemia it will be part of NATO's basic radar network. Chief-of-staff Vlastimil Picek said earlier this week that the radar would markedly improve the airspace protection and the security of the country.
The number of eligible voters in the 10-million-strong Czech Republic has been increasing in recent years, according to the official election website of the Czech Statistical Office. Currently, some 8.4 million Czech citizens are eligible to cast their ballots, which is by 400,000 more than in the first Czech parliamentary elections in 1996.
The Czech Philharmonic under the baton of French conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier will launch Dvořák’s Prague international classical music festival on Friday evening in Prague’s Rudolfinum concert hall. In its second year, the festival will feature almost twenty concerts in the next two weeks, presenting young Czech and foreign up-and-coming soloists, including soprano Olga Trifonova, violinists Janine Jansen and Arabella Steinbacher and conductor Tomáš Netopil.
Prague Police have arrested roughly 100 fans of the visiting Serbian football team, Red Star Belgrade, after violent clashes with the group in the city centre. The conflict apparently flared up after members of the crowd of roughly 200 fans began harassing passing tourists and their movements were restricted by the police force monitoring them. The group then proceeded to smash shop windows along Wenceslas Square and demolish one restaurant, throwing beer mugs at police and passers-by before being surrounded and arrested by riot police. Paramedics at the scene have treated a number of injuries. Czech Police have been on high alert since Wednesday evening when the fans began arriving, and several dozen of them were arrested within hours of crossing the boarder for robbing and vandalising filling stations. Prague Police called Red Star one of the rowdiest clubs in Europe and set up a number of security precautions, including mounted units and helicopter patrols, ahead of Thursday evening’s match against Slavia Prague.
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