Czech president Václav Klaus has said that the Georgian government is responsible for the country’s current conflict with Russia. Mr Klaus criticized the Georgian government’s behaviour, as well the Western media’s reaction to the conflict, in a letter to the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes on Monday. President Klaus said on Friday that he thought Russia had more justification than ever for its actions following Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia earlier this year. He called the attitude of Western leaders towards the crisis in Georgia ‘hypocritical’, given the way they had reacted to Kosovo. Mr Klaus’s views are at odds with those held by the Czech government on the Georgian situation. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has blamed the conflict in Georgia on Russia.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has indeed reacted to the president’s statements by saying that they ignore Moscow’s responsibility for the crisis. Mr Schwarzenberg added that it is a pity that government officials did not consult with each other before taking their views to the press. At a briefing on Monday afternoon, the foreign minister told journalists that he respected the president’s opinions, but that Mr Klaus’s views were at odds with the official standpoint of the Czech Foreign Ministry.
Ten former managers of the Trend and Mercia investment funds have been sentenced by a Hradec Kralové court for illegally stripping the trusts’ assets. Miroslav Hálek, who is thought to have been behind the fraud, was sentenced to seven years in prison. Five other senior managers received lesser prison sentences, while four of those convicted were handed suspended sentences. The men were found guilty of embezzling more than 1.4 billion crowns (84.25 billion USD) from the two funds during the mid-nineties. One man was cleared of all charges.
Two civil engineers charged following one of the worst train accidents in recent Czech history have pled their innocence. Zdeněk Malý and Oldřich Magnusek, who police say knew about the structural instability of a bridge which collapsed onto a railway track in Northern Moravia two weeks ago, told the press on Monday that they did not feel themselves to be guilty of endangering the public. If convicted, the pair could face up to ten years each in prison. According to Messrs Malý and Magnusek, moves were made to fortify the bridge in the days running up to the accident. Seven people died, and ten times as many were left hospitalized after a train traveling from Krakow to Prague collided with debris from the fallen bridge.
Czechs spent over 28 billion crowns (1.7 billion USD) on their health last year – on top of the health insurance deducted from their wages. In the last five years, the amount that Czechs contribute towards their medicines has been raised from ten to 12 percent of the drug’s total cost. A study conducted by the Institute of Health Information and Statistics found that the amount Czechs had shelled out on medicines had risen from 20 billion crowns in 2003 to almost 28 billion crowns last year. Overall, some 231 billion crowns were spent on healthcare in the Czech Republic in 2007, the study found.
The vice-rector of Palacký University in Olomouc, Jakub Durr, is to become the new deputy education minister, Právo reported on Monday, citing former vice-minister Dušan Lužný. The paper writes that Mr Durr will be put in charge of drawing EU funds for the ministry, as well as preparing ministry employees for the Czech Republic’s EU presidency in 2009. The Education Ministry has yet to confirm the reports, but has said that it has rented a new building to house its European Union team in Prague’s Karlín district.
An exhibition of banners and posters made by the citizens of Prague in response to the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968 has just been unveiled on Prague’s Wenceslas Square. Photos of home-made posters and grafitti messages were taken by Austrian reporter Franz Goess in August 1968, and to mark the 40th anniversary of the Soviet-led occupation, the images have gone on display at the heart of the Czech capital. On Monday, Mr Goess himself formally opened the exhibition. The photos will remain on display on Wenceslas Square until September 12, when they will travel to Vienna and then Paris.
Apple’s iPhone is set to launch on the Czech market this Friday, and will be priced at 11,995 crowns (720 USD) with a pay-as-you-go contract. The announcement was made by Telefonica O2 – who will be the first firm to sell the phone in this country – on its website on Monday. For those signing two-year contracts with the telecommunications firm, the phone will cost as little as one crown. Analysts say they expect sales of the iPhone in the Czech Republic to number more than 20,000 in the coming months.
The Czech national football team convened on Monday for the first time since their defeat at the Euro 2008 championships to receive a briefing from the new national coach Petr Rada. The team met ahead of their friendly against England at London’s Wembley Stadium on Wednesday – a match which Rada has described as ‘key’. Both teams go into the match looking to raise morale ahead of their World Cup qualifying matches.