The Czech National Bank has withdrawn the 50-crown banknote from circulation. Thursday was the last day when people could pay with the bill. The banknote has been replaced with a 50-crown bi-metallic coin. The central bank made the decision last year in view of lowering direct expenditures associated with issuing money. After Thursday, people will be able to exchange the bills at all commercial banks for a period of 12 months or the Czech National Bank for a period of seven years.
Třinec beat Slavia Prague 5:3 on Wednesday night, tying the hockey playoffs’ best-of-seven semifinal series at 3:3. Slavia took an early lead when Pavel Kolařík hit the top corner of the goal in the second minute. Třinec soon came back and equalized but Slavia added another goal, winning the opening period 2:1. The visitors however scored three goals in the second which proved too much for the hosts. Regular season winners Třinec will face Slavia at home on Friday in the series’ seventh game. The winner will play Vítkovice in the league finals.
Up to 25 people are reported to have been injured in a truck-train crash in Moravia on Wednesday. Twenty people were taken to hospital for treatment, mostly with lighter injuries, the rest were attended to on the spot. No one was killed in the accident. The crash happened shortly after midday when a Polish truck driver went through the crossing moments before a train was to pass through. The crash derailed the passenger train which was carrying 120 passengers. The cause of the accident is being investigated.
The cabinet has approved an amendment to the law that would enable the direct purchase of military equipment from abroad. The amendment was drafted by the Defense Ministry in view of limiting the influence of third party intermediaries which it is currently bound to use. Defense Minister Alexander Vondra said a recent fiscal audit had shown that in the past six years purchases via intermediaries had increased the price of military orders by a staggering 1.5 billion crowns. Mr. Vondra said the waste had been the result of a preference for exploiting available funds rather than fulfilling real needs.
The Euobserver warns that euro-pact refuseniks will find themselves sidelined from important decision making in the future. The internet daily notes that by opting to stay outside the pact the Czech Republic, Sweden, Hungary and the UK will find themselves excluded from euro-pact summits and will get relevant information second-hand. The EUobserver notes that this fact motivated even countries nervous about joining the single currency to jump on the bandwagon. Analysts cited by the paper say that despite the strong anti-euro rhetoric from Czech President Vaclav Klaus the Czech Republic is not likely to remain outside the Euro Pact for very long. Paradoxically one of the reasons the Czech representation gave for staying out was that it had been presented with a take-it-or-leave -it deal tailored by France and Germany.
President Klaus has granted a pardon to a man who is serving a six year sentence for attempted murder after shooting at thieves on his property. Karel Bašta, the owner of a scrap yard near Brno, defended his property with a gun during a break-in two years ago, opening fire at an escaping car and seriously injured a group of youths. One of the passengers - a young woman- was blinded. Bašta was charged with attempted manslaughter and subsequently sentenced to six years in prison. The charge of manslaughter though was later upgraded to attempted murder by a higher court. The president’s office said the pardon was granted in view of the man’s previously clean criminal record and good reputation as well as the fact that he had offered the injured youths financial compensation.
The head of the Czech prison service Jirí Trégl said on Wednesday that the service could not be blamed for the suicide attempt by the man suspected of the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl in Prague last October. Mr. Trégl said that the usual preventative measures had been taken to protect the suspect inside the prison-house. He said that he had shared a cell with a foreign national who spoke no Czech and was unaware of the circumstances of the case. Moreover the child murder suspect had undergone a session with a psychologist at which he showed no signs of a mental breakdown which would have merited special treatment. The suspect attempted to hang himself using a rope made from his own clothes. He suffered a swelling of the brain and died within 48 hours in hospital.
Photographer František Drtikol’s most famous photograph The Wave which was stolen from the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague is back in its place, the CTK news agency reported on Wednesday. The photograph was returned by the police and its authenticity has been verified. The unknown thief reportedly tried to sell the work of art in California where the owner of a gallery noticed that it was on the international list of stolen art.
The 50-crown banknote is to be taken out of circulation on Thursday, March 31st, leaving only the copper-and-zinc coin in this denomination. The Czech National Bank made the decision last year in view of lowering direct expenditures associated with issuing money. After that date people will be able to exchange the bills at all commercial banks for a period of 12 months or the Czech National Bank for a period of seven years.
The police have uncovered an illegal marihuana plantation in the town of Židovice, north of Prague. During a raid on a former hops storage facility the police confiscated over 2,000 fully grown marihuana plants and arrested two Vietnamese nationals residing on the premises. The suspects have been taken into custody. If charged and found guilty they could face up to ten years in prison.