President Miloš Zeman will visit the Vatican in April of this year at the invitation of Pope Francis. According to the internet news site Aktualne.cz the president himself confirmed the visit, which is to take place on April 24th. According to the Czech Ambassador to the Vatican, Pavel Vošalík, the planning of the president’s agenda is in the hands of the head of protocol at Prague Castle, Jiří Forejt, who has in the past been mentioned as a possible successor to Mr. Vošalík.
A Czech-Polish yacht expedition has set a naval record by reaching the Bay of Whales near Antarctica, the southernmost place ever reached by a yacht, after an almost month-long sail. According to Jan Žák from the Czech Antarctic Polar Fund the expedition reached a latitude of 78 degrees 43 minutes south in Antarctica´s Ross Sea. The southernmost latitude a yacht ever reached before was the 77 degrees 51 minutes. The expedition set off for Antarctica from the port of Hobart, the Tasmanian capital, on January 15 and arrived at its destination on February 12th. It covered over 4,000 kms before reaching the Ross Sea.
President Zeman’s claim that he was surprised by the resignation of Justice Minister Helena Válková earlier this week, and the suggestion that he might not accept it, has angered Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. Mr. Sobotka said on Friday that should the president refuse to accept Ms. Válková’s resignation he would dismiss her from office. Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who is Ms. Válková’s party boss, has also expressed surprise over the president’s words, saying he had personally discussed the change of guard with him and hoped that the head of state would respect the agreement reached.
The lower house of Parliament has approved an amendment to the school law opening the way for an inclusive education system. The amendment should introduce broad measures that will make it easier for handicapped children to attend regular classes, among them personal assistants, special textbooks, and special curricula tailored to a child’s needs. The bill also restricts the sale of unhealthy snacks on school premises.
President Miloš Zeman has called for the lifting or limiting of EU sanctions against Russia in the wake of the Minsk peace deal, saying that such a move would benefit both sides. Speaking on a visit to the United Arab Emirates on Friday, the Czech president said he wanted to believe that the peace deal, which was signed on a higher political level that previous agreements, would work. He said it was time to consider lifting or softening the sanctions against Russia. Meanwhile, at an EU summit in Brussels, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said it was premature to consider such a move, saying that the world should now observe how the parties involved adhered to the peace agreement.
A police investigation into an accident on an escalator in the Prague metro last year has ruled out foul play. The police who investigated the matter as a possible endangerment of public safety, have concluded that the accident happened due to a technical error, and have closed the case without filing charges. The accident happened on November 27th of last year when one of the escalators on Jungmanova metro station unexpectedly went into reverse operation causing a human pile-up. Three women ended up in hospital.
The transport of munition from the Vrbětice depot which was severely damaged by a blast late last year is going ahead as planned, thanks to favourable weather conditions, a spokeswoman for the Zlin police department told the ctk news agency. Fifteen lorries of munition belonging to the private company Excalibur Army have so far been removed from the site. According to the company’s spokesperson this accounts for a mere 11 percent of the overall amount of munition Excalibur Army stored at the site. According to the Interior Ministry there was some 7,000 tons of ammunition in storage on the site at the time of the blast. It is not yet clear how much of it was destroyed. Some of the undamaged ammunition is now being delivered to clients, the rest will be moved to a different storage site.
The Communist Party has moved to tone down a photo exhibition celebrating the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, changing its focus instead to a reflection on life in North Korea. The exhibition was arranged in honour of the new North Korean ambassador to Prague, Kim Pyong- Il, who is the younger half-brother of the late North Korean leader. Communist party leader Vojtěch Filip, who came under fire over the exhibition, has distanced himself from the original initiative, saying that it had been arranged by his deputy Petr Šimůnek, and had not been consulted in advance.
The Homo Homini prize for human rights advocacy, which is presented by the NGO People in Need during the One World documentary film festival, will go Souad Nawfal, a Syrian teacher and activist, who is known for her public protests against the Islamic State militants. She is set to receive the award in person at the start of this year’s One World.
The Czech speed skating champion Martina Sáblíková has taken the gold medal in the women’s 3,000 metres at the World Championships in Heerenveen, Netherlands. The Czech speed skater on Thursday beat defending champion Ireen Wüst of the Netherlands by more than a second and earned her third career title. Wüst’s compatriot Marije Joling finished third.