President Klaus has said both sides are to blame in the military conflict over South Ossetia. In a statement for Czech Radio, Mr. Klaus said that he strongly condemned both Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia and the massive intervention of the Russian military. He said that to lay the blame exclusively at Russia’s door would be unjust, and noted that with the separation of Kosovo, Russia had obtained a strong justification for its action. The president likewise rejected the comparison with the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, saying that the circumstances in the Caucuses were entirely different.
Earlier this week, the Czech Foreign Ministry released a statement saying Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be fully respected and indirectly blaming Russia for causing the crisis. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said that the Czech Republic would like to participate in the EU peacekeeping mission in the region. The Czech Cabinet is to debate the situation in the Caucuses next Wednesday.
Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Tomáš Pojar has welcomed Poland’s decision to host US interceptor missiles on its territory, as part of Washington’s missile defense shield. The Czech government has committed to hosting a US tracking radar on its territory which is likewise part of the US missile defense programme. Although both Prague and Warsaw have now reached agreement with Washington, its missile defense plans for Central Europe still need to be approved by the two countries’ parliaments.
The police on Friday filed charges against two civil engineers who were in charge of the reconstruction of a bridge that collapsed onto the rail tracks near the town of Studénka last Friday causing a train accident in which seven people were killed and dozens more injured. The police say the two engineers knew the static of the bridge was impaired and did not take sufficient measures to prevent it from collapsing on the tracks. If found guilty, they could spend up to ten years in jail.
The Hradec Králové town hall has moved to prevent a neo-Nazi gathering over the weekend. The town hall on Friday cancelled a contract for the lease of the open-air cinema where the gathering was to take place. The organizers are to receive financial compensation for the last minute cancellation. Meanwhile, police in the East Bohemian town of Hradec Králové have been bracing for the gathering which was to have been attended by several hundred neo-Nazis from around the Czech Republic and abroad. The gathering was scheduled to coincide with the death of one of Hitler’s closest aides and associates Rudolf Hesse.
Jaromír Štětina, a senator from the Green Party and a former war reporter, has left for Tbilisi, Georgia in order to assess the situation in person. The senator says he plans to stay in Tbilisi for about a week and do some reporting like in the old days. He will be in contact with Czech representatives and Czech journalists on the ground.
Czech hotels and other accommodation facilities registered 3.4 million guests in the second quarter of this year, down 0.1 percent year-on-year, the Czech Statistical Office announced on Friday. Tourists stayed in the Czech Republic for 2.9 nights on average, compared to three nights seen a year earlier. The figure applies to both foreign and domestic guests.
Czechs Jaroslav Volf and Ondřej Štěpánek won silver medals in the double canoes final at the Summer Olympics in Beijing on Friday. They finished third in the semi-finals, giving a faultless performance in the final ride. They were only beaten by Slovakia’s Hochschorner borthers; the German double canoe Felix Michel and Sebastian Piersing were running second but keeled and finished last.
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.