Ten Czech human right groups and NGOs have written an open letter to the prime minister, foreign minister and minister for human rights asking them to renew the country’s commitment to supporting human rights around the world. Among the signatories are Czechs in support of Tibet, the Czech branch of Amnesty International, the Vaclav Havel Library and People in Need. The centre-left government of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has been accused of downgrading support for human rights in return for furthering the country’s business interests. Czech and Chinese officials recently signed an agreement on boosting trade, which included a passage saying that the Czech Republic respects the territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China and does not support the independence of Tibet.
The Israeli ambassador to Prague Gary Koren is not ruling out a massive ground operation if Hamas attacks from the Gaza Strip do not cease. In an interview for the ctk news agency Ambassador Koren said that while the Israeli government favoured a ceasefire agreement it would not hesitate to protect its citizens. Violence along the Gaza frontier sharply escalated following the abduction and killing of three Jewish seminary students in the occupied West Bank three weeks ago.
Czech consumer prices stagnated in a year-on-year as well as month-on-month comparison in June after rising by 0.4 percent annually in May, the Czech Statistics Office said on Wednesday. The result was influenced mainly by a drop in prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages. A drop in inflation from 0.4 percent in May was generally expected, but a decrease all the way to a zero level is a surprise, analyst Patrik Rožumberský of UniCredit Bank told the ctk news agency. The board of the National Bank expects that the growth of consumer prices will be near the bank’s 2 percent inflation target for next year.
Details have emerged from the KGB files smuggled out of Russia in 1992 by senior KGB official Vasili Mitrokhin, which Britain declassified last week. Some of the files relate to an operation code-named Progress in which 15 Russian agents were sent to Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1968 to undermine the Prague Spring pro-democracy movement. They targeted journalists from Czechoslovak radio and television, academics from Charles University, members of the Christian Democratic Party and writers such as Pavel Kohout and Milan Kundera. Operation Progress was launched by then KGB chief Jurii Andropov. The files can be viewed at Cambridge University.
Cabinet members on Wednesday held a minute of silence as a mark of respect for the four Czech soldiers killed in Afghanistan and the government ordered sirens to go off and bells to toll around the country in their memory at midday on Thursday. They will also be awarded medals for bravery in memoriam by the president. The country will not be holding a day of mourning as such. A government plane is to leave for Afghanistan later today to repatriate the soldiers’ remains. Details about funeral arrangements have not yet been made public.
The President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai has denounced the Tuesday bombing as a cowardly and unforgivable act that took the lives of innocent civilians, including many children. In a statement published in the Kabul Times the Afghan president said such actions were not compatible with the teachings of Islam. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on Tuesday.
The Czech solider who was wounded in Tuesday’s terrorist suicide bombing in Afghanistan remains in serious but stable condition, a Czech military source reported on Wednesday. The soldier, who was flown to a US military hospital, has undergone two emergency operations and is likely to remain in Afghanistan for another 10 to 14 days. Four Czech soldiers were killed in the bombing, which also claimed the lives of ten Afghan children and two police officers.
Slovak President Andrej Kiska who is on a state visit to the Czech Republic has been received with military honours at Prague Castle by President Miloš Zeman. The heads of state expressed satisfaction with regard to the countries’ above-standard bilateral relations, though they agreed that there was room for improvement, such as improving the motorway connection between the two countries. They also discussed military cooperation and possible cooperation on foreign markets. The Slovak head of state will later meet with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Senate chairman Milan Stěch.
Czech football league and cup champions Sparta Prague will face Estonian league winners Levadia Tallinn next Tuesday as the first hurdle in their to play in the prestigious Champions League. The Estonians beat San Marino club La Fioritu 7:0 at home on Tuesday night to take the two-match fixture 8:0. Sparta will play at home in Prague Tuesday with the return match in Estonia a week later.
The European Commission in Brussels has dispatched a long list of reservations about the Czech Republic’s plans to pump EU funds over next financing period until 2020. The daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported Wednesday that the list contains 88 specific reservations over the Czech strategy in the so-called Partnership Agreement. These cover, for example, the heavy onus on constructing incineration plants to deal with household waste, questions why past information technology programmes and investments have been such a shambles, and why plans to burn more biomass in power plants are not linked to cuts in polluting emissions. Overall, the Commission has called for more specific reasons and statistics explaining why certain investment options have been chosen. The Czech Republic is already lagging its neighbours Slovakia and Poland who have already had their Partnership Agreements cleared by Brussels. EU funds over the next seven years for the Czech Republic come to around 550 billion crowns.