Temperatures fell to as low as -30.7 degrees Celsius in the Czech Republic on Tuesday night, the coldest night so far this year. Record lows of around -25 were recorded at several places. Tuesday’s freeze caused railway tracks to crack in some parts of the country, leading to delays. One man froze to death in the Prague district of Jinonice during the night, some people were treated for frostbite, and a boat used as a shelter for the homeless in the Czech capital housed 259 people, the most ever seen for one night. Forecasters said temperatures would rise on Wednesday, but warned of snow and strong winds. The lowest temperature ever recorded in the country was -42.2 degrees Celsius, in 1929.
The Holocaust represented pure evil that could be reawakened in the future, the Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, said at a ceremony at the Czech Senate marking Holocaust Memorial Day on Wednesday. He said the Holocaust defied comprehension and belief, adding that such evil remained within mankind and could, unfortunately, be revived. Mr Fischer is himself of Jewish origin and has in recent years developed an interest in the religion. January 27 is the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi’s Auschwitz death camp in 1945.
The Czech Minister for the Environment Jan Dusík has sidestepped a decision over an environmental impact assessment for ČEZ’s modernisation of a controversial coal plant. The assessment will now be given to a foreign company. Czech power giant ČEZ is planning to invest 25 billion crowns at Pruněřov in the northwest of the Czech Republic. The name of the company tasked to carry out the assessment will be published by the end of the week. Czech and international environmental groups as well as the small Pacific island state of Micronesia oppose the expansion of the plant on grounds that it will cause environmental damage and contribute to the raising of sea levels. ČEZ claims that the new plant will have a 39-percent efficiency rating.
One hundred and fifty-seven new cases of HIV were recorded in the Czech Republic in 2009, the highest number ever for a single year, according to figures released by the National HIV/AIDS Programme. In 2008 148 fresh cases were discovered. To date a total of 1,344 people are known to have contracted HIV in the Czech Republic; some 292 of them developed AIDS, of which 156 died.
The Czech Republic’s international football squad may take part in a tournament in the USA next year that would also involve Turkey, the president of the country’s football association, Ivan Hašek, told journalists on Wednesday. Negotiations are underway regarding the tournament, which would take place in the second half of May. The Czechs also have friendlies lined up against Scotland in March and Morocco in August.
The former Czech international Marek Jankulovski could leave Italian giants AC Milan for Baník Ostrava during the summer, the newspaper Sport reported. The 32-year-old, who plays at both left back and on the wing, started his career at the Czech club. His agent told Sport that the move depended on whether Milan wanted to keep the player on their books next season. Jankulovski joined the club in 2005 and was part of the team that won the Champions League in 2007.
Former Czech president Václav Havel was the guest of honour at the Czech launch of the latest album by the rock band Plastic People of the Universe at Prague’s Akropolis club on Tuesday night. It was the group’s imprisonment by the communist regime that sparked the Charter 77 protest movement, in which Mr Havel was a key figure. The Plastic People’s LP Maska za maskou (The Mask behind the Mask) is their first since 2001 and the first written since the death of main songwriter Milan “Mejla” Hlavsa.
President Václav Klaus met with his one-time rival, former Social Democrat prime minister Miloš Zeman at Prague Castle on Tuesday. Mr. Zeman is now leading a new left-wing party that will run in the spring general elections, but both politicians stressed that it had been an informal meeting unrelated to Mr. Zeman’s political comeback. In what was termed a general debate, the two former rivals agreed that the Czech Republic was badly in need of strong leadership, describing the present situation as a political void. The two politicians were involved in a number of political conflicts during the nineties, when Mr. Klaus was the head of the Civic Democrats and Mr. Zeman the leader of the Social Democrats, but they put aside their differences to form a hidden grand coalition in 1998.
In an exclusive interview for the online news site of the weekly Týden, Vladimír Špidla, whose term as EU Employment Commissioner is drawing to a close, confirmed that he plans to run for a seat in the Senate for the Social Democrats upon his return to the Czech Republic. The leader of the Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek told journalists on Tuesday that his party will collaborate with Mr. Špidla in the parliamentary elections. Mr. Špidla said in the interview that he will be running for the Český Krumlov region. He added that his candidacy will be decided on by the end of February. In Brussels, Mr. Špidla will be succeeded by Stefan Füle as European Commissioner for Enlargement.
Across the country, new snowfalls have been leading to car and truck collisions, road blockades and traffic jams. Five cars collided on the D5 highway some 20 kilometers from Prague on Tuesday morning and the D1 highway from Prague to Brno had to be partly closed down due to a pile-up. Traffic police reported numerous accidents around the country and have warned drivers to exercise extreme caution. Meteorologists have also been issuing warnings and are predicting severe conditions on Czech roads on Tuesday night, when temperatures will drop from -9 degrees Celsius in the evening to up to -25 degrees Celsius at night.