Slovakia’s Foreign Minister Ján Kubiš said on Friday that Russia has repeated warnings it will aim missiles at US installations planned in the Czech Republic and neighbouring Poland - part of a broader defense shield. Mr Kubiš revealed the news after meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Bucharest. He added that while Moscow clearly continues to oppose the system, it was apparent Russia would search for ways to accept the project. At the NATO Summit on Thursday it was announced that the US had reached agreement with the Czech Republic on the siting of its radar base on Czech soil. NATO countries also fully backed the US plan, saying the project would be integrated into a future NATO system.
In related news, Russia’s outgoing President Vladimir Putin made no mention of the planned US radar base or missile defense during a much-anticipated speech at the NATO summit on Friday. Czech President Václav Klaus called the omission “fairly surprising”. Russia has continually expressed strong opposition to US plans.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has confirmed that next Tuesday the country’s National Security Council will discuss the Czech-US SOFA (Status of Forces) agreement, defining the status of US troops on Czech soil in connection with the planned radar base. A new round of bilateral talks between the US and the Czech Republic is then to continue on Wednesday, with a final agreement expected by April 11. Defence Minister Vlasta Parkánová said on Thursday that the Security Council should now decide whether to preserve the mandate of Czech negotiators or make modifications. Besides covering the legal status of US soldiers, the SOFA also deals with environmental and transport issues as well as other factors including controls by authorities over construction and taxation.
Czech police have broken up a British-led gang producing the methamphetamine pervetin for the British black market. Police said on Friday the gang’s lab was one of the largest uncovered in recent years, producing an estimated half-kilo of the drug per week. Five were arrested in the round up, there of them Czechs; if found guilty they could face up to 15 years in prison. According to officials, the pervetin was produced using store-bought medicines; the lab itself was uncovered in a Prague garage. Last year more than 2,000 individuals were reportedly arrested in the Czech Republic for involvement in drug-related crimes – the vast majority of them Czech nationals. Some 130 were foreigners, officials say.
The Supreme Court has confirmed an earlier 20-month suspended prison sentence for Pavel Šrytr for attempting to bribe Social Democrat MP and Olympic medallist Pavel Ploc two years ago. The MP was offered the bribe as enticement for switching Parliamentary parties shortly after the 2006 election ended in deadlock. Lower instance courts in east Bohemia ruled on the sentence in 2007. The Supreme Court rejected Mr Šrytr's appeal last year, but the announcement was only just released. In the past Pavel Šrytr, a former bodyguard, admitted meeting with MP Ploc but denied any wrongdoing.
The head of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Pavel Žáček, has revealed the finding of new documents pertaining to the Mašín brothers - members of an anti-communist resistance group who shot their way out of Communist Czechoslovakia. The documents reportedly date to the interrogation of family member Ctibor Novák, later executed by the regime. The documents suggest that under questioning Mr Novák admitted that the Mašíns had planned to abduct Communist Defence Minister Alexej Čepicka as well to conduct acts of sabotage. It is plausible the statements were made under the threat of violence by the secret police. Not long ago the Mašíns, along with resistance group member Milan Paumer, were recognised by Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek for their willingness to fight against the Communist regime in the 1950s.
“Magnus” by Estonian director Kadri Koussar has been chosen as top film at the Czech Republic’s Febiofest film festival. The director is to be awarded the prize – which includes a cheque for 5,000 euros (the equivalent of about 7,800 US dollars) - on the festival’s closing night. The prize will be awarded by Czech-British architect and jury head Jan Kaplický. “Magnus” is said to tell the story of a teen who, having overcome serious illness in childhood, is unable to give up an obsession with suicide, leading a family member to try and intervene.
In the NHL on Thursday Jaromír Jágr’s New York Rangers defeated local
rivals the New York Islanders 3-0 to secure a spot in this year’s
Cup playoffs. Jágr – the Ranger’s captain – scored twice in the 1st
period, while compatriot Martin Straka added a third. The Rangers have one
game left to play in the regular season, against the New Jersey Devils. A
win would push the Rangers into the 4th spot in the Eastern Conference –
giving them home ice advantage in the playoffs.
In other action on Thursday, the Nashville Predators secured the final spot in the Western Conference by downing St Louis 3-2. Jan Hlaváč assisted on all three goals, seeing him named 1st star.
The Czech Republic and the United States have reached agreement on the
main treaty concerning the possible siting of a U.S. radar base on Czech
territory, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Thursday
after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a NATO
summit in Bucharest. The actual treaty will be signed in Prague at the
beginning of May.
Washington’s plans to expand its missile-defense shield to central Europe would involve the positioning of a tracking radar in the Czech Republic, and a launching-pad for ten interceptor missiles in neighbouring Poland. At the summit, NATO countries are expected to fully back the planned U.S. anti-missile defence system in Europe and announce that it will be integrated into a future system of joint NATO defence.
The European Commission warned on Thursday that the Czech Republic may be
sued over its failure to adopt the EU river transport information system.
The Czech Republic failed to incorporate European rules of river transport
into Czech law to form a joint information system on river transport by the
end of last October. The system is aimed at improving the safety,
reliability, and effectiveness of river transport within the European Union
and at raising its competitiveness. The European Commission will now send
the Czech Republic a reasoned opinion, which is the second step in
informing member states they are breaching EU legislation.
In related news, the European Commission issued a similar warning to the Czech Republic over the country’s failure to unite Czech law with EU legislation concerning recognition of doctors’ and dentists’ qualifications from other EU member states.