A demonstration highlighting recent unrest between Roma and Czech communities in the North Bohemian town of Rumburk on Friday evening ended in an unauthorised march through a Roma ghetto. Five people were arrested after sticks were thrown at windows and a fence was destroyed. The demonstration was attended by some 1,500 people protesting a recent rise in violent crime in the area perpetrated by newly arriving Roma. The crowd was prevented from approaching individual residential buildings by riot police. Czech Television reported that the buildings were mostly empty as their residents had left in anticipation of the demonstrations. The current unrest was sparked by a local incident last weekend in which six young people were attacked by 20 Roma; seven people were charged with riotous conduct and grievous bodily harm with a racial motive.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has warned Czech agriculturalists against exporting raw goods, which return to the country as finished foodstuffs. Speaking at a major agricultural fair in the South Bohemian city of České Budějovice, the prime minister warned that the country was surrendering added value under such circumstances and said that Czech agriculture workers must seek to integrate themselves more with the food industry. He also agreed with President Klaus’ message to the fair on Thursday that Czech farmers are overly dependent on grant money, the state and on politicians, which he said was the result of the relatively low productivity of Czech agriculture, which meets only 40% of the Western European average.
Czech police have detained a well-known Prague physician who former assistants have accused of sexual violence. Jaroslav Barták was arrested at Ruzyně International Airport as he returned from holiday and was brought in for questioning. Police refused to say whether he would be accused. Six women have filed legal complaints against Dr Barták for sexual coercion, rape, extortion, unlawful restraint, dangerous intimidation and bodily harm. He denies the accusations, saying the women were prostitutes.
The new batch of US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks shows the American government brought their concerns over Russia’s expansion on the European energy market to Czech officials when US Vice-President Joseph Biden visited Prague in 2009. Regarding a tender for the completion of the Temelin nuclear power plant sought by both American and Russian companies, the cables say that Mr Biden told then prime minister Jan Fischer to “turn to Westinghouse” if the Czech Republic wanted to escape the influence of Russia. He also said that Moscow’s behaviour would change radically if Europe were able to find an alternative to Russian energy sources, and that they must not be allowed a monopoly.
The cables also suggest that Czech negotiators mediating the planned missile defence system in 2008 won a considerable concession from the Americans, namely that the only US soldiers at the base would be radar operators. The US had originally wanted a contract that would allow unspecified troops at the base. The Czech side in turn stepped back from its demands on taxing American companies involved in building the facility. The previous US administration sought a missile defence system that would have involved a radar base in the Czech Republic. The Czech public was broadly opposed to the idea and President Barack Obama scrapped the plan a year after taking office.
Czech tennis player Petra Cetkovská has advanced to the semi-final round of the WTA tournament in New Haven, having defeated fourth-seeded Marion Bartoli of France 7:5, 7:5. She will now face China’s Li Na for final round qualification. Cetkovská has played Li Na only once, in 2009, when she lost in Monterrey 3:6 4:6. She said she was looking forward to seeing how well her game stands up to the world no. 5, who has five WTA titles to her name.
Pole-vaulter Jan Kudlička has advanced to the final round of the World Championships in Athletics in Daegu, South Korea, qualifying with a 550 cm jump on his first attempt. Runner Denisa Rosolová has also enjoyed success at the championships, stepping up to the semifinal round in the 400 metre race after taking fourth place in Friday’s run with 52.51 seconds. Discus thrower Věra Cechlová however failed to advance, as did Marcela Lustigová in the 3000-metre steeplechase. Roman Šebrle is currently in thirteenth place in the decathelon, having finished the shot put with a total of 2494 points.
News sites, including Czech Position, have reported that preparations are
well underway for a first official visit to Prague by Russian President
Dmitry Medvedev. The internet daily on Friday cited sources at Prague
Castle who indicated the visit is planned for December. It is likely to
coincide with an exhibition of artefacts from the Kremlin at Prague Castle
beginning on December 9th. The Czech and Russian presidents met in Prague
in April of last year during the landmark signing of a new nuclear arms
reduction deal by Mr Medvedev and US President Barack Obama.
According to sources, discussions during the December visit will focus on numerous topics, including a major tender on the construction of two reactors (with options for an additional three) at the Czech nuclear power plant Temelin. The Russian company Atomstrojexport in partnership with the Czech engineering company Škoda JS is competing for the deal with the US-based Westinghouse and France’s Areva.
Czech police will maintain a heightened presence in areas of North Bohemia for at least two or three weeks, the police president Petr Lessy announced late Thursday after meeting with officials in Rumburk. Patrols in the area have been reinforced in reaction to growing tension between members of the local Roma and non-Roma community, and are intended to drive local crime down. The town of Šluknov has registered a number of violent incidents in recent weeks, while Rumburk was the site of a street fight and allegedly racially-motivated attack last weekend involving more than 20 people. On Friday some 200 police officers will monitor demonstrations that are expected to go ahead in Rumburk and Varnsdorf. In roughly three weeks, the police will assess developments and consider further steps, the police president said.
In related news, demonstrations – which have not been sanctioned by local authorities -began in Varnsdorf and Šluknov on Friday afternoon. More than 200 people in Varnsdorf turned up. A third demonstration also got under way in Rumburk, but shortly after five pm only several dozen people were on the square. Local politicians were most wary of the demonstration in Rumburk, which was originally planned by a group with reported ties to the neo-Nazi movement. In the end the demonstration was taken up by local Social Democrats who booked the square earlier.
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