Czech World War II hero Čestmír Šikola has died at the age of 89, the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes reported. Mr Šikola was one of the last surviving men to have been parachuted into occupied Bohemia and Moravia by the British. He used his skills as a wireless operator to send around 800 intelligence reports to London from the Protectorate between 1942 and 1945.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek is to present the anti-communist fighter Milan Paumer with a prime minister’s medal on Tuesday. Mr. Paumer together with the Mašín brothers, whom the prime minister decorated in Washington last week, were engaged in subversive actions against the communist regime in the hardline 1950s and eventually escaped to the West killing six people in the process. The prime minister’s decision to decorate them has caused enormous controversy since the public is divided over their actions – some consider them heroes, others murderers. Previous efforts by members of the Senate to get them state distinctions did not garner sufficient support.
Two American citizens who were detained by the foreigners’ police in the town of Prostějov three weeks ago have been deported from the Czech Republic. The two men had overstayed the 90-day period for which no visas are required. They originally asked for asylum in the Czech Republic hoping to be allowed to stay but withdrew the request when they were told their chances of obtaining asylum were practically non-existent. The Czech Republic’s entry to the Schengen border-free zone has made life difficult for US citizens living here illegally. While in the past they merely had to cross the country’s borders once every three months in order to get a fresh stamp in their passport now they would have to travel outside of the Schengen area in order to start a new 90-day period in the country.
The Czech Supreme Court has upheld the complaint of an old woman who claims to have grown cannabis for medical purposes in her vegetable patch but was found guilty of illegal production and possession of drugs by a lower-level court. The lawyer who defended the woman pointed out that growing cannabis on such small scale could hardly be classified as illegal drug production. The woman said she used the leaves for poultices. The Supreme Court returned the case to a lower level court saying the state attorney had not adequately proved the woman’s criminal intent.
President Václav Klaus’ first foreign visit in his second term of office will take him to neighbouring Slovakia, the president’s office announced on Monday. The president and first lady are to travel to Bratislava on March 10th where they will be received at Bratislava Castle by President Ivan Gašparovič. On the following day the Czech presidential couple is expected in Poland. President Klaus will be sworn in on Friday, March 7.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has said it is very likely Jiří Čunek will be reinstated as deputy prime minister and minister of regional development next week. Mr Topolánek made the comments on a TV debate programme on Sunday. Mr Čunek is the leader of the second biggest party in the coalition government the Christian Democrats. He has been involved in a number of scandals and resigned over a criminal investigation into allegations he had taken bribes. Since that investigation was shelved Mr Čunek has insisted he be allowed to return to cabinet. The Greens, the smallest party in the coalition, have repeatedly expressed reservations over his possible reinstatement.
Mr Topolánek also spoke about his visit to Washington last week, denying that there was any link between a US pledge to add the Czech Republic to its Visa Waiver Programme and American plans to build a radar base in central Bohemia. The prime minister said Czech politicians had been trying to win visa-free travel to the US since 1989 and it was not the work of one government. Mr Topolánek has previously said the Czech Parliament will vote on the radar base around the time of a NATO summit in Bucharest in April. Opinion polls have suggested most Czechs are opposed to the building of such a facility.
Fire officers in the Czech Republic were called out twice as often as
usual following winds of up to 144 KPH on Saturday. Both professional and
volunteer fire-fighters made over 3,000 calls to remove fallen trees from
roads, roofs and fallen high tension lines around the country, a
spokesperson for the national fire brigades association said.
A girl of 11 was killed by a falling branch, while an 80-year-old priest died after being hit by a flying sheet of metal; several others were injured and hundreds were evacuated from their homes. At one point over 900,000 people were without power, though on Sunday afternoon only 25,000 households were still without electricity.
Hurricane-force gales of 140 KPH were also recorded on Sunday but emergency services said the situation was not as bad as the previous day. Winds were expected to die down by Sunday night.
Police halted a concert attended by far-right skinheads in Jeneč near Prague on Saturday night. There were around 80 neo-Nazis at the event, which was held in a pub. Police said it was possible some of them had earlier taken part in a demonstration in the town of Plzeň, which was more sparsely attended than had been expected and passed off peacefully.
Alice Nellis’s Tajnosti, or Little Girl Blue as it is titled in English, has taken the prize for best picture at the Czech Republic’s annual film awards. The Český Lev (Czech Lion) awards were also fruitful for the Svěráks – Jan Svěrák took the best director award for Vratné Lahve (Empties), while his actor father Zdeněk took best screenplay for the same picture. The Český Lev awards were held at the Grand Hall of Prague’s Lucerna and were broadcast live on Czech Television.