The embattled Head of the Government Office, Pavel Pribyl, has apologised for not having been "on the right side of the barricade" during the anti-communist demonstrations of January 1989 and acknowledged that he was at that time a commander of a police anti-riot unit. But in a statement published in the Pravo newspaper on Thursday, Mr Pribyl said that neither he nor any of the police under his command beat demonstrators. "I was a 25-year old kid who received a task. I had to perform professionally, but at the same time I tried my utmost to do so as humanly as possible," Mr Pribyl writes. A group of some 100 people, including prominent artists and former dissidents, have signed a petition calling for Mr Pribyl's resignation; the group also staged a protest rally outside the Cabinet headquarters on Tuesday.
The government coalition has agreed on the final version of the draft policy statement, Prime Minister and Social Democrat chairman Stanislav Gross told reporters on Thursday, following five hours of talks with the other party leaders in government. The agenda calls for more fiscal restraint than did earlier drafts, with calls to offset new government spending with cuts in other areas. Planned steps to be taken in this regard include tightening the conditions for receiving welfare and trimming the wages of state employees. In an effort to fight corruption, public officials would also be required to make public their assets and monitored cash registers with electronic memory would be introduced.
Two teams of Czech canoeists are through to the semi-finals of the men's C2 doubles event at the Olympic Games. Jaroslav Volf and Ondrej Stepanek finished 13.31 seconds off the pace of the of the Slovakian leaders, placing third, while the team of Marek Jiras and Tomas Mader finished 27.95 seconds off, placing ninth. Czech canoeist Ondrej Raab finished in ninth place in the men's solo K-1 qualification race.
The three parties of the coalition government have completed work on the government's policy programme. The Cabinet is to meet on Thursday to give it an official stamp of approval, before its expected publication. Over the past few days the three parties of the coalition government debated several controversial points pertaining to child benefits, foreign policy and weirs on the river Elbe. The Social Democrats laid emphasis on helping the socially weaker groups of the population, in particular young families with children, but the Christian Democrats and Freedom Union urged restraint pointing out the need to curb public spending. The government is expected to ask Parliament for a vote of confidence on August 24th.
A recruitment ad for the Czech military which used the theme of the Olympic Games without permission has been withdrawn from radio broadcasting. The ad, which began in conjunction with the Olympics, draws a parallel between the Olympic Games and service in the military, saying both require similar traits such as physical endurance, teamwork and dedication. However the Defence Ministry which commissioned the ad failed to get permission from the Czech Olympic Committee to use the theme. A new ad is now being created without any mention of the Olympics.
Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has said he will dismiss Pavel Pribyl, his controversial choice as head of the Office of the Government, if it is proven that Mr Pribyl beat up demonstrators while a member of a communist police unit in January 1989. Mr Gross made the pledge to film director Bretislav Rychlik, one of a group of artists and former dissidents who called for Mr Pribyl's sacking outside the Office of the Government on Tuesday morning. Speaking in the daily Mlada fronta Dnes Pavel Pribyl admitted leading the riot unit, but said he himself had not been on the front lines.
Well-known lawyer Kolja Kubicek has been given a two-year sentence suspended for four years, after being found guilty of blackmail. The Prague 6 District Court heard that he had told a plaintiff that if he did not withdraw a charge against a client of Mr Kubicek's he would be involved in a car crash, or would be accused of drug dealing. The lawyer, who has defended contract killer Jiri Kajinek and former Communist politician Karel Hoffmann, immediately appealed the verdict.
Vladimir Ruzicka will coach the Czech ice hockey team at the forthcoming World Cup, following the tragic death of Ivan Hlinka on Monday. The 1998 Olympic winning Czech team coached by Hlinka was captained by Ruzicka, and the two men were good friends. The Czech Extraliga is expected to start a week later than planned, to accommodate Ruzicka, who coaches the club Slavia Prague.