Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has warned Russia that he holds the country responsible for the foreign observers being held in eastern Ukraine by separatist groups. One of the seven members of a team of observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is a Czech soldier. Sobotka told the Czech News Agency that Russia had clear cut responsibility in the case and had taken part in the decision to deploy the OSCE mission. Moscow should now use its influence with the separatists to get them freed, he added. Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek told Czech Television Friday that negotiations were continuing daily to free the hostages.
Mayors from 18 local councils in the north of the Czech Republic bordering Germany have sent a letter to the prime minister drawing his attention to the tinder box situation in the area, the daily Lidové Noviny reported on Monday. The deprived Šluknov area was the scene of demonstrations by extreme right wing groups and ethnic tensions with the local Roma community three years ago. Since then, mayors say little has changed in terms of creating jobs or opportunities or increasing local police numbers and council budgets. The mayors warn Bohuslav Sobotka that without action the tensions could boil over again this summer.
In ice hockey, Czech coach Vladimír Růžička has said that that he can count on NHL forward Tomáš Hertl to reinforce the squad for the upcoming world championships in Belarus. Růžička told journalists that the San Jose Sharks player, who returned after injury last month, should join the squad on Tuesday. On the other hand, the Czech team will not be able to count on Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voráček due to ongoing health problems.
The Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) confirmed later Saturday that the seven strong group of military observers being held in Slaviansk since April 25 had been released. The local separatist leader said it was a voluntary act which coincided with his own birthday. Five other people being detained, believed to be Ukrainians, were also released at the same time. The separatist leader said that Russian military emissary Vladimir Lukin had played a part in their release. As well as the Czech Republic, the OSCE mission came from Germany, Denmark, Poland and Sweden. The Swede was freed earlier on health grounds.
A Czech Supreme Court verdict has confirmed that injuries incurred during quasi-obligatory work related ‘team building’ activities are the responsibility of the employer and should be regarded as work-related, the news server Aktuálně.cz reported on Saturday. A case concerning a Brno-based university professor who was injured during a team building sports event in 2005 made its way all the way to the country’s highest court after an insurance company refused to pay almost 130,000 crowns for damages. The company claimed that the sports event was not part of work. The Supreme Court verdict is in line with similar rulings in the past.
Council leaders from the south-east Moravian town of Bystřice pod Hostýnem have called on Czech president Miloš Zeman to give recognition to a group of WWII Czech parachutists on the 70th anniversary of their mission. The three, Antonín Bartoš, Čestmír Šikola and Jiří Štokman, returned to their occupied homeland near Bystřice in the Spring of 1944 to help create an intelligence network. The three survived until Soviet forces reached the region towards the end of the war. The parachutists, none of whom is still living, were later given the freedom of Bystřice in honour of their action but have not been awarded with any national recognition.
In tennis, Czech number one Tomáš Berdych has won through to the final of the Portuguese Open. He beat Romanian Victor Hanescu 6:2, 6:2 on Saturday and will face the winner of the other semi-final between Spaniard Daniel Gimeno and Argentinian Carlos Belocq in the final on Sunday. It is the third ATP final that Berdych has played this year.
Storms with hail and strong winds hit the Czech Republic on Friday afternoon. In parts of northern and central Bohemia, heavy rain has swollen local rivers and flooded houses. In the Zlín region, a lightning hit the roof of a family house on fire. Up to 30 mm of precipitation is expected in parts of the country which could swell smaller rivers in central Bohemia and the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands on Friday night, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute said.
Health care workers’ trade unions have asked Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka for coalition talks over health care funding. After a meeting with the prime minister and the health minister, the head of the unions, Martin Engle, said heads of the coalition parties should discuss issues such as doctors’ overtime and education as well as possible cost-cutting measures. Doctors complain that on average, they annually work more than 1,000 hours overtime while EU legislation only allows for 416 hours a year. Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček said earlier this week his ministry would like to save around 1.5 billion crowns this year.
Pavel Hubený was on Friday appointed the acting director of the Šumava National Park. Mr Hubený, who has served as the head of the surrounding Šumava Protected Landscape Area, replaces Jiří Mánek. His predecessor was dismissed last week over disagreements with the Environment Ministry about the future of the park. After his appointment, the new director told the news agency ČTK he was going to review the projects planned by the park administration some of which could be halted. The Šumava National Park has for years been at the centre of controversies between proponents of logging and development and those who believe that as much of the park’s area as possible should be off limits for interventions.