Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has signed on to an open letter attacking Russia's record on democracy and political freedom. The letter's 75 signatories include former prime ministers of soviet bloc countries like Estonia, as well as advocates of democracy from Europe and the United States, including current and former lawmakers. The open letter is to be published in the UK's Financial Times newspaper on May 9, to coincide with ceremonies in Moscow marking the end of the Second World War. The signatories accuse Russia of betraying the principles behind the victory against Nazi Germany 60 years ago, and say Russia's plan to mark the anniversary in Moscow makes "a mockery" of the struggle for freedom.
In sports news, Czech ice hockey star forward Jaromir Jagr is set to play in the Czech-Slovak match on Saturday evening, just a few days after breaking his little finger in an earlier game at the World Championships in Vienna. The Czech team beat Switzerland, Germany and Kazakhstan in the first group stage. Saturday's match against the Slovaks will be their first real test.
The government spokeswoman Veronika Skorepova has resigned following reports in the Czech media that she had padded her official resume. Ms Skorepova was the long-time assistant to the newly appointed Prime Minister, Jiri Paroubek, during his tenure as local development minister. Mr Paroubek took office on the 25th of April and Ms Skorepova assumed her new role just over a week later. Czech media had reported on Friday that she had listed work experience on her CV with at least one organisation for which she had never worked. Ms Skorepova, a former journalist, said she had been the target of a "negative media campaign" and denied that she had false information in her resume. She said was leaving her post only because she did not want to discredit the new government in any way.
Official commemorations marking 60 years since the end of the Second World War continued on Saturday along with re-enactments of several historical events, including the bloody battle on Vinohradska Street for control of what was then Czechoslovak Radio. Among the larger events: President Vaclav Klaus is due to host a celebration at the Prague Castle honouring Czech veterans of the war. Celebrations also are being held in Plzen, which along with western Bohemia, was liberated by American and other Allied soldiers. Sunday will see a host of memorial events, including the first military parade on the city's Letna plain since the fall of communism.
Czech ice hockey star Jaromir Jagr says he is ready to play against Slovakia, just a few days after breaking his little finger in an earlier game at the World Championships in Vienna. The Czech team have reached the last 16 in the competition, after beating Switzerland, Germany and Kazakhstan in the first group stage. Saturday's match against the Slovaks will be their first real test.
A poll to decide who is the "Greatest Ever Czech" reached its penultimate phase on Thursday evening, when the top ten names were revealed by Czech Television. The only living person in the top ten is former president Vaclav Havel. Among the others are first Czechoslovak president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, writers Karel Capek and Bozena Nemcova, educator Jan Amos Komensky, composer Antonin Dvorak and actor Jan Werich. The list also includes the important historical figures of Jan Hus, Jan Zizka and Charles IV. Czechs have just over a month to vote on the "Greatest Ever Czech" from this shortlist.
Jaroslav Basta has been chosen by the Social Democrats to be first deputy foreign minister. The announcement came after a group of rebel Social Democrat MPs insisted on the party securing the post as a counterweight to Christian Democrat Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, who they say is too pro-American. Mr Svoboda has already said he would not be opposed to the appointment of Mr Basta.
The Czech Republic is preparing for a weekend of events to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, with most memorials being held in Prague and the west Bohemian town of Pilsen. On Saturday a reenactment of a bloody battle for control of Czech Radio is being held on Prague's Vinohradska Street. Sunday will see a host of memorial events, including the first military parade on the city's Letna plain since the fall of communism.
President Vaclav Klaus's office has rejected a call from the chairman
of the Lower House of Parliament, Lubomir Zaoralek, for a public debate
on the European Union Constitution. The president's spokesman said Mr
Klaus was already leading the debate, and indeed had been the first
person to raise the issue. President Klaus has been described as the
only head of state in the European Union to be publicly opposed to the
EU Constitution, and was recently involved in a dispute over the issue
with two leading members of the European Parliament.
Meanwhile, the government European affairs information committee has said a planned campaign to persuade Czechs to vote Yes to the Constitution will cost slightly less than originally planned. However, it is still not clear whether ratification will be decided by a referendum or by Parliament.
The documentary Death in Gaza by British cameraman James Miller, who was killed during the film's shooting in 2003, has received the top prize at a human rights film festival in the Prague. A total of 120 films were shown since April 27 at this year's seventh edition of the festival, organised by the Czech charity People in Need. The jury at Prague's One World 2005 human rights documentary film festival said it appreciated the film's "professional approach", its "humanism" and its "dynamic action". The film documents the Israeli army's destruction of hundreds of homes in the Palestinian territories.