Outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has expressed deep concern over growing extremism in the country, saying that steps to deal with the problem will be discussed by the government on Monday. The prime minister was reacting to events in the Czech Republic at the weekend, from extremist demonstrations in Ústí nad Labem and Krupka, to a vicious attack against a Romany family on Saturday. The prime minister said he believed there was a connection between the political engagement of radicals and violence against individuals, making clear the problem will need to be dealt with head on.
On Saturday, 300 neo-Nazis marched in the town of Ústí nad Labem, north Bohemia; although there were no incidents of violence, two leftist radicals were detained. Around 1,000 police officers were out in force well ahead of the march to prevent neo-Nazis and anarchists from clashing. The work by police units was praised on Sunday by the prime minister. Ahead of the march, life in the centre of Ústí nad Labem largely came to a standstill, with shops and restaurants closed. The ultra right-wing organisation behind the demonstration said it was meant to mark the 64th anniversary of the bombing of the city at the end of World War II. But specialists on extremism say the real reason was to mark the anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birth.
President Václav Klaus has condemned an attack against a Romany family in Vítkov in the Opava region, calling it a “brutal” and heinous act”. Members of the family – including a two-year-old child - suffered serious injuries on Saturday when unknown perpetrators used petrol bombs to set their home alight. The Molotov cocktails caused an extensive fire: the family’s two-year-old daughter suffered severe burns to more than 80 percent of her body. She remains in hospital in critical condition. Details on the police investigation have not yet been revealed and it is unknown whether the attack was racially-motivated.
Romany organisations and activists have expressed deep concern over the attack against the Romany family in the Opava region. On Sunday one organisation warned Romanies to be vigilant against “terrorist attacks by Czechs”, a statement backed by a number of Roma groups throughout the country. The various movements also agreed that the Roma community could not rely on what they described as a “failing state apparatus”, saying that arson attacks on the Roma in the Czech Republic were "not isolated". Some monitoring the situation have described conditions as becoming intolerable. On Sunday, the attack was condemned by both the Czech president and the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek. The latter made clear the outgoing government’s priority will be to begin tackling the problem of growing extremism when it meets on Monday.
A soldier who was seriously injured in Afghanistan on Friday in the line of duty has been flown to the Czech Republic. He is currently receiving medical attention at Prague’s Central Military Hospital. Officials said his condition is stable and said that his injuries were not life-threatening. Two fellow colleagues were also injured when their vehicle went over a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Friday, but they have since returned to duty at the Shank base. Attacks in areas in Afghanistan have grown in intensity: in 2008, ten Czech soldiers were injured in similar incidents; two lost their lives.
Outgoing Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has said he will found a new centre-right conservative party if what he called “socialist egalitarianism” continued in the Christian Democratic Party. He made the statement on a Sunday debate programme, but did not elaborate on whether the new party would take part in early elections set for October. He did make clear he would decide following the Christian Democrats’ leadership race in May. He himself is not running for the post of party chairman. Mr Kalousek has been at odds with his party and the current leadership on a number of issues, the last being the forming of the new interim cabinet. The Christian Democrats, under current leader Jiří Čunek, pulled out of an earlier agreement on the new interim cabinet.
Rukopis, a collection of poems by Bohumila Grogerová, has won Book of the Year - the top prize at the annual Magnesia Litera Awards. The ceremony was held on Saturday at Prague’s Estates Theatre. The author will receive 200,000 crowns. Other awards on the night went to Pavel Gobl for Tichý společník (Discovery of the Year) and to Pavel Šrut for Lichožrouťi (Best Children’s Book). Saturday’s ceremony was hosted by Czech actress Anna Geislerová.
English football club Chelsea, with goalkeeper Petr Čech, have made it to the final of the FA Cup. It is the second time Čech will compete for the trophy; two years ago, he and fellow players won the prestigious tournament. Chelsea defeated Arsenal 2:1 on Saturday to earn a berth in the final; they will now face the winner of the other remaining match-up, either Everton or Manchester United.
In hockey, the Detroit Red Wings lead Columbus two games to none in their best-of-seven series in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Czech forward Jiří Hudler scored Detroit’s final goal on Saturday to see the club take the game 4:0. The goal is Hudler’s second in the NHL playoffs this year.
Residents in Ústí nad Labem have taken precautions ahead of a neo-Nazi march planned for Saturday evening. Earlier in the day, the north Bohemian city was described as almost empty of local inhabitants, with stores, restaurants and bars closed, some boarded up. Some 1,000 officers will monitor the march. Throughout the day, the police checked key areas for items that could be used as potential weapons. Police are also guarding sites such as the city’s railway station. It has been estimated that some 500 right-wing extremists could show up, some of them from neighbouring Germany, while around 100 anarchists could try to clash with them. The Czech far-right group behind the march has said it is marking the 64th anniversary of the bombing of the city in 1945. But observers say the real reason is to mark the upcoming anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler.