Two Jas-39 Gripen fighter jets were scrambled last Friday to identify an aircraft, the Defence Ministry revealed. The move was taken after a Spanish civilian airbus failed to reply to ground control even over the emergency frequency. The Gripen fighter jet pilots made visual contact with the pilots of the passenger jet and escorted the aircraft up to the German border. The spokesman for the Defence Ministry called similar incidents, where the pilots failed to communicate, rare.
A Kurdish brigadier general who fled persecution under the regime of late dictator Saddam Hussein, who held a Czech passport and had studied in Olomouc, was killed on Sunday in Iraq, the news website iDnes reports. The general, who was not named, was killed near Mosul where forces have launched an offensive to push out fighters for Daesh. According to the report, the general was shot by a terrorist fighter who had remained behind, who then detonated an explosive device, killing himself. iDnes cited details from a Kurdish news report.
Canadian writer Ken Campbell of The Hockey News has ranked the Czech Republic’s national hockey team eighth out of eight squads to compete in the prestigious World Cup of Hockey this September. The power rankings were released after the rosters for the competition were finalised; a disclaimer in the article reminds readers not to take the rankings as predictions; rather they can be interpreted as a summary of teams’ overall strengths and weaknesses. Campbell expressed the opinion that Czechs were weakest when it came to defense but had several “serviceable” NHL forwards. He praised as “good” the goalies Michal Neuwirth and Petr Mrázek. On the list, the Czech squad boasts the second-fewest Stanley Cup rings (although a San Jose Sharks win this year would add two). Czech coach Josef Jandač, meanwhile, told idnes.cz that the team saw the situation neither bleakly nor with rose-coloured glasses, saying they knew they could only surprise.
Two Czechs drowned and a third person is still missing following a rafting accident on Friday on the Swiss river Landquart near Küblis, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung reports. The three were part of a group of 10 Czech tourists on two rafts; when one overturned, two people were able to save themselves but two others were later found drowned. The fate of a 66-year-old man remains unknown but officials are not hopeful. The search has since been called off until further notice.
Anti-smoking legislation broadened to include a number of MP proposals from last week has been approved by the government and will once again be presented for debate in the lower house. The move was confirmed by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Monday. According to the prime minister, the legislation, which bans smoking in restaurants and pubs and other areas, could go into effect in January 2017. The previous inception was shot down last week following the passing of a proposal by Civic Democrat Marek Benda for restaurants to be allowed to provide special rooms for smoking on the premises. The failure to pass the bill led to a rift in the ruling coalition. Health Minister Svatopluk Němeček has pushed for legislation regulating smoking to be passed in the Czech Republic to limit, for example, the dangers of secondhand smoke.
The city of Prague is preparing to ban the use of Segway vehicles in the Prague Heritage Reservation, the Czech News Agency reported on Monday – a day before the matter is to be debated by councillors at City Hall. ČTK cited the proposal to be discussed. The reservation covers Prague’s historic centre: the Old and New Towns, Malá strana and Hradčany (the site of Prague Castle and St. Vitus’ Cathedral). Within the zone Segways will not be allowed on sidewalks, cycling paths, pedestrian walkways and in residential areas. Streets well outside the heritage reservation area are also included, namely near Prague’s Naměstí Míru. Segway vehicles were recently reclassified under new traffic legislation; previously, Segway users had been defined as pedestrians. Under the proposal, only the police will be allowed to use the vehicles in the areas outlined.
President Miloš Zeman suggested in an interview for commercial broadcaster Frekvence 1 that he had never heard of well-known Czech lyricist and sometime TV personality Michal Horáček. Horáček, also a multimillionaire former co-owner of betting company Fortuna and onetime sports journalist, said in the media recently he was considering running in the next presidential election, although he had not taken a final decision yet. Horáček, while not a professional politician, was involved in Civic Forum during the Velvet Revolution and a few years ago co-founded an environmentalist party called LES with former environment minister Martin Bursík. It is not known whether President Zeman is intending to run for a second term: in his interview for Frekvence 1, he said that Horáček, like other potential rivals, “would have to wait until March 2017 to find out”.
An audit by the country’s Supreme Audit Office has found shortcomings in business rentals of commercial space by the Czech Foreign Ministry. The checks were conducted between the years 2012 and 2014, auditing property worth 752 million crowns and funds of 349 million crowns. The bureau charged that the renal of business space in Prague’s Rytířská Street was uneconomical, charging two clients between 6,000 and 7,000 crowns per square metre and a third only around 4,500 – a difference of a minimum of 2.2 million crowns lost annually over a four-year period. The Czech Audit Office also found that expenses for the children of employees at Czech missions around the world had grown significantly, despite the fact that under existing norms they should attend state schools. The Czech News Agency, which reported the story, has contacted the ministry for comment.
The 18th Khamoro World Roma Festival, showcasing Roma musicians from all over the world, opened with an open-air oncert at the embankment in Prague centre at the weekend. The event runs through June 4. Apart from concerts, the festival programme offers a number of accompanying events, including expert seminars on current topics. Sunday's opening concert started with Le Chavendar Czech band from Rokycany, west Bohemia, whose music is based on Roma folklore enriched by jazz, Latin and flamenco motifs. It was followed by Slovak singer Maros Bango along with the dulcimer band of Ladislav Rigo and DJ Shantel mixing electronic music with Balkan rhythms. He is the first DJ to remix songs of Romanies, Serbian and Macedonian bands, organizers said. During its 18-year history, the festival has welcomed a total of 184 bands from 33 countries, the Czech News Agency reported.
The trial of two Czechs charged in New Zealand with smuggling some 20 kilos of the illegal drug pervetin (methamphetamine) is set to continue on Monday. The amount of drugs was the largest ever uncovered at the airport in Aukland, and has an estimated value of 320 million crowns. New Zealand has strict drug laws and the Czechs could face life sentences if found guilty. In a similar case recently, two gang members producing the drug locally were given sentences of 15 and 19 years in jail.