The Czech government on Wednesday strongly condemned Russia’s military
offensive in Georgia. Following a cabinet meeting devoted to the situation
in the Caucuses, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said that Georgia’s
independence and integrity must be respected and that Russia had violated
international law when it sent its troops over the border. At the request
of Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg the government agreed to set
aside 150 million crowns in aid to Georgia to help restore the country’s
damaged infrastructure in the wake of Russia’s military offensive. It
also wants to organize a donors’ conference in order to provide further
assistance. The government and NGOs have already sent medicines and
humanitarian aid to the region.
The armed conflict over South Ossetia has divided Czech politicians. While the Foreign Ministry issued a statement in support of Georgia and condemned Moscow’s use of force, President Klaus said that Georgia was primarily to blame for provoking the armed conflict.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has welcomed a US-Polish agreement to station elements of a US missile defence shield on Polish soil. The site in Poland hosting ten interceptor rockets and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic will form the European part of a global system Washington says it is assembling to shoot down ballistic missiles it fears could be launched by "rogue" states or militant groups such as al-Qaeda. The Czech government agreed earlier this year to host the US tracking radar on Czech soil. However public opinion is against the radar and the agreement still needs to be approved by Parliament.
Forty years after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic still has reason to fear Russia, Luboš Dobrovský, former ambassador to Moscow told Hospodařské Noviny. Mr. Dobrovský who served as the country’s ambassador to Russia in the late 1990s, said that it was important for the democratic community to jointly condemn Moscow’s use of force, otherwise the country would be tempted to provoke its neighbours again and again in view of depriving them of their independence. Russia will undoubtedly continue trying to restore its political, military and economic influence in its close neighbourhood, Mr. Dobrovský told the paper.
Forty years after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, 41 percent of Czechs say Russia could present a security threat to their country. In an opinion poll conducted in connection with the anniversary two thirds of Czechs said they did not think Russia was a democratic country and forty percent of respondents said it was to blame for the conflict over South Ossetia.
Experts predict that repairing the environmental damage caused by Soviet troops on Czechoslovak territory between 1968 and 1991 may take up until 2012. The occupying forces used 73 military areas and 60 of them were left in a very bad state. Since 1991 –when the last Soviet troops were withdrawn from Czech territory – the authorities poured 1.3 billion crowns into clean-up operations. Another 240 million will be required.
The town of Chrudim, in Eastern Bohemia, has placed a tank on its main square as a reminder of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia 40 years ago. The invasion, intended to crush the reform movement known as the Prague Spring, took place in the early hours of August 21st of 1968. Over 100 people were killed and more than 500 injured in the clash with foreign troops. Numerous commemorative ceremonies, exhibitions and debates are being held across the country to mark the anniversary.
The Czech government will appeal the arbitration ruling in its dispute with Diag Human, a company trading in blood plasma, according to which the Czech Republic is to pay some nine billion crowns in compensation for having robbed the firm of lucrative business deals. In 1992, then Health Minister Martin Bojar dissuaded other European companies from doing business with Diag Human and the firm pressed charges. A court ruled that the Czech Republic should pay damages and apologise publicly. The state has subsequently appealed the ruling unsuccessfully on several occasions. Under Czech law, after an arbitration ruling is issued, the parties involved can submit a proposal for it to be reviewed by other arbitrators.
The Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has called the Russian invasion of Georgia a violation of international law. The comments came as he attended an emergency summit of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels designed to address the current crisis in Georgia. The Czech Foreign Minister also pledged to persuade the Czech government to provide 150 million crowns in aid for Georgia. The US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also attended the summit, pressing European countries to adopt a tougher line against Russia. One proposed measure was freezing the six-year-old NATO-Russia Council, which unites 27 governments for discussions about issues such as international security and counter-terrorism. However, members at today’s meeting pulled in various directions – with some favouring a tougher line, while others urging caution against “knee-jerk” reactions. The Czech Republic is believed to favour a tougher line against Russia. Following the meeting, Condoleezza Rice is set to visit Warsaw to sign a missile-defence agreement with that country – a move which Russia believes is a deliberate provocation.
The company which was responsible for the maintenance of the bridge near the city of Ostrava which collapsed on the 8th August, leading to a major train accident, is to pay out compensation to the victims. The compensation will total 250,000 crowns to the families of the seven victims as well as smaller amounts to those that were injured in the crash. A similar compensation package was announced by Czech Railways last week, while another company involved in reconstructing the bridge - Bögel & Krýsl - is also set to announce its own compensation package. The current moves by the company Dopravní stavby Ostrava are not viewed as an admission of direct liability. Meanwhile, two Bögel & Krýsl engineers accused of responsibility for the accident have denied the charges.