US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday before departing
for Europe that Russia would not get away with
occupying another country, like it did Czechoslovakia in 1968. “This is
not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia when Russia can threaten its
neighbours, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it.
Things have changed,” Ms Rice told reporters.
In related news, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said on Wednesday that the Czech Republic would like to take part in an EU observers’ mission to Georgia. Speaking after an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Wednesday, Mr Schwarzenberg said that Georgia’s sovereignty as well as territorial integrity must be fully respected.
The Czech Republic has lost an arbitration dispute with the firm Diag Human, and has been ordered to pay the company some 8.33 billion crowns, or more than 512 million USD, in damages. The feud between the Czech state and the firm, which deals in blood plasma, has been going on since the early 1990s. In 1992, then Health Minister Martin Bojar dissuaded other European companies from doing business with Diag Human, a court case found that the health minister did so unjustly, and ruled that the state should pay damages and apologise publicly. The state has subsequently appealed the ruling unsuccessfully on several occasions. Over half of the sum that the Czech government must now pay Diag Human consists of interest which has accrued on previously unpaid damages. The Czech state is likely to appeal the verdict.
The police have arrested two men in connection with the Eurocity train crash which occurred in North Moravia last Friday. Seven people died and more than 70 were injured in one of the worst train crashes in recent Czech history. The accident occurred near the town of Studénka, in northern Moravia, after an overhead bridge, which was being repaired, collapsed onto the railway track just as the Eurocity train from Krakow to Prague was approaching. The CTK news agency reported that both men were employees of one of the building companies working on the bridge.
The Czech Statistical Office reported on Thursday that the Czech economy’s growth in the second quarter of 2008 slowed down to 4.5 percent. Among the causes cited was the strengthening of the Czech crown against the euro and dollar with consequences for a number of Czech exporting companies, as well as the slowing consumption rate of Czech households. The Czech Statistical Office also lowered its estimate for the economy’s growth in the third quarter of this year to 5.1 percent.
The Supreme State Attorneys Office warned on Thursday that some police units, particularly those dealing with economic and financial crime, were severely undermanned and could collapse as a result. In their annual report, chief prosecutors said that personal changes and an unfinished and ongoing overhaul of the police had very negative effects on its work An Interior Ministry spokesperson said that the ministry was dealing with the situation but denied that the current problems could affect criminal proceedings.
Two Czech speleologists who were exploring a system of caves near the town of Rožňava, in eastern Slovakia, were rescued after more than 40 hours they spent underground. After rising water trapped two men inside the cave, one of the explorers managed to escape but then another went in to look for the one who couldn’t get out; local rescue teams got the two trapped speleologists out in the end.
Czech shooter Kateřina Emmons won her second medal at the Olympic Games in Beijing on Thursday after finishing second in the women’s three-position 50 m rifle event. Ms Emmons also won the 10 m air rifle on Saturday becoming the first athlete to win gold at the 2008 Summer Olympics. In Thursday’s competition, Kateřina Emmons finished sixth in the qualifier and her position ranged between second and fourth place in the final shootout. With her final shot, she passed Eglis Yaima Cruz of Cuba, who finished third, and China’s Du Li who landed the gold.
Sparta Prague lost 2:1 to Panathinaikos Athens in the first leg of the Champions League’s third qualifying round in Prague on Wednesday. The first score took place in the 24th minute of the game after Sparta’s defender Kučera netted an own goal. It only took the home side six minutes to equalize but the winning score by Simao, of Athens, came some 20 minutes before the game ended. The second leg of the qualifier will take place in Athens in two weeks’ time.
A Czech army Airbus 319 has departed for Georgia in order to bring humanitarian supplies and also bring home Czechs who have been caught up in the fighting. Specifically, the plane will be bringing blood and blood plasma as well as bandages and other medical supplies. The estimated value of the aid package is five million Czech crowns, according to the Czech Foreign Ministry. Both Czech and Polish citizens currently in Georgia are expected to be on board the return flight. Current estimates suggest around 250 people will return from the region. Because of cited security concerns, the plane will land in neighbouring Armenia. Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers have agreed to be ready to send peacekeepers to the region, with the Czech Republic signaling its strong commitment to its soldiers joining the mission. Reports have also emerged that two Czech reporters have been mugged in the region of South Ossetia – both are reported to be unharmed.
Czech police have formally shelved an investigation into former Social Democrat Prime Minister Stanislav Gross’ business dealings. The case revolves around last year’s purchase and sale of shares by Mr. Gross in the company Moravia Energo. Mr Gross purchased a one third stake in the electricity company last year from former colleague Robert Sykora, who also served as deputy trade minister – the loan was financed by a company called Key Investments. Mr Gross then resold the shares to a company called Arca Capital Bohemia, making a sizable profit in the process. The case was investigated by the Czech anti-corruption police, who today announced that they had found no evidence of wrongdoing.