The Czech domestic security and counter-intelligence service, the Security
Information Service, has reported growing Russian activity in the country.
In its report on 2009, the service said Russian intelligence gathering was
stepped up and focussed in particular on the energy sector and research.
The report said the sometimes aggressive intelligence gathering used not
only the usual diplomatic cover but also the Russian community in the Czech
Republic. As well as political and business contacts attempts had been made
to foster links with academic research using students, it added.
The report includes a wider warning of attempts by business and interest groups to subvert the state administration and in particular to influence the filling of top positions and decisions concerning state-owned enterprises such as the state forestry company and Czech Airlines.
The Czech intelligence service also highlighted attempts by Iran to get components and know-how that could be used for weapons of mass destruction. The report said that Iran did not spare any effort in these attempts. These efforts included front companies and firms in third countries that had no know knowledge of the complete supply chain. The service added that North Korea, Syria and Pakistan also sought to obtain specialised and sensitive Czech machinery.
Around 300 demonstrators blocked the busy E55 highway between Teplice and Lovosice in the north-west of the country for around 30 minutes on Wednesday. They were calling for the completion of a 16 kilometre section of the D8 motorway which has become embroiled in planning problems. As a result of delay around 12,000 heavy lorries are estimated to go through small villages such as Velemín daily. The stretch of motorway was due to be completed at the end of this year. Environmentalists won a challenge to the motorway’s completion earlier this month meaning that it probably will be completed in 2012 at the earliest and possibly not at all.
The Czech upper house has voted down a proposed anti-corruption package which would have introduced the concept of a crown witness and agent provocateur. The proposal drawn up by the outgoing Social Democrat minister of the interior, Martin Pecina, was voted against by 43 senators with 25 in favour. Many also spoke against the idea of increased police use of phone tapping and tax returns to counter corruption. The proposal will now automatically fall with a new lower house having been sworn in following elections.
Members of the Czech upper house, the Senate, on Wednesday backed the Czech government’s stand against a European proposal for a tax on banks in spite of support for it from left leaning Social Democrats. The European Commission proposal calls for the tax to ensure that in future banking crises a special fund will be available to bail out banks without the state having to immediately step in. Germany, France and Britain have already said they will introduce such a tax. Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer opposed the move last week at a summit of European leaders in Brussels. He said there were too many uncertainties about it. European affairs minister Juraj Chmiel warned on Wednesday that the tax would be passed onto bank customers in the form of higher charges.
Leaders of the three parties seeking to form a future government have agreed not to relax existing environmental limits on mining brown coal. The agreement between negotiators from the Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and Public Affairs party was arrived at late Tuesday as they sealed an agreement on the environment and farming chapter of their negotiations. They also agreed to draw up a new energy and raw materials policy. On agriculture, the negotiators agreed to speed up the sale of state-owned land already being farmed and tighten the rules for building on green field sites.
Czech women are the second biggest users of the birth control pill after the French, according to a survey released on Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary since the pill was first put on the market. The pill is normally used by around 43 percent of Czech women of reproductive age compared with half of French women. This compares with four percent of women in Greece and seven percent in Turkey. The survey of women in 18 countries carried out by one manufacturer showed two-thirds of European women had used the pill for birth control at one stage in their lives.
Police are treating as disorderly conduct an incident in which two youths were caught with an air rifle above a square where Czech President Václav Klaus was on a visit, the news site idnes.cz reported. The incident occurred on Monday last week when the president was in the Moravian city of Olomouc. The youths, who were both 19, said they had wanted to use the sight of the air rifle in order to see Mr Klaus better from the roof of an apartment building. They removed the sight, which one used to observe the president while the other waved the air rifle about. The two have described their actions as stupid and childish. They might have been shot by police snipers under different circumstances and a police spokesperson said their irresponsible behaviour had chiefly been a danger to themselves.
In ice hockey, Czech forward Tomáš Plekanec has signed a six year contract worth 30 million dollars to stay on at the Montreal Canadiens. The deal comes a week before the 27-year-old would have become a free agent. During the last season Plekanec was the top scorer with 25 goals and 45 assists. He joined the NHL club in 2001.
Czech-born tennis star Martina Navrátilová has said she is free from breast cancer after an operation and radiation treatment. The nine times Wimbledon singles winner was diagnosed with a non-invasive form of breast cancer in February this year. The form can, however, increase the chances of contracting cancer later if it is not dealt with. Navrátilová gave the update on her health at a news conference in the margins of this year’s Wimbledon tournament. She added that she still has the goal of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa by the end of the year.