A Czech soldier has been awarded a European medal for service to security and defence goals. The medal was given to the sergeant for his actions during an attack on Czech troops stationed in Mali last year. He took a leading role in defending a hotel in Bamako which came under armed gun and grenade attack by insurgents. He is the first Czech soldier to be given such an award, the highest for a soldier on an EU mission. Czech soldiers have been tasked with protecting the EU’s training mission in Bamako.
President Miloš Zeman has invited Pope Francis to visit the Czech Republic in June this year to mark the 75th anniversary of the Lidíce massacres. Around 20 Czechs from the village north of Prague were executed in a reprisal for the assassination of the Nazi acting governor of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich, in 1942 by Czechoslovak parachutists from Britain. The village was razed to the ground and children and mothers sent to concentration camps. Altogether 340 people from Lidíce perished by the end of the war. Zeman explained in a letter to the pope that the event was highly symbolic for the Czech Republic.
Ukrainian member of parliament and former air pilot prisoner of the Russians, Nadiya Savchenko, met with Czech opposition lawmakers on the last of her three-day visit to the Czech Republic on Friday. She encouraged Czech leaders to keep in contact with their Ukrainian counterparts and called for them to lobby Moscow over the fate of ongoing Ukrainian prisoners from the conflict in East Ukraine. TOP 09 party leader Miroslav Kalousek said Savchenko was a symbol of liberty and resistance against the aggressor.
Lower house lawmakers have passed a raft of proposed government tax changes which mainly focus on offering more tax relief for parents for second, third, and fourth children. The move, for example, boosts tax relief for a second child by 2400 crowns to reach 19404 crowns. The measure, if backed by the Senate and president, should come into effect by April 1. But a series of amendments to the rules over electronic cash registers and sales declarations proposed by both government and opposition parties failed to win sufficient support.
In tennis, Czech player Barbora Strycová failed to clinch the doubles trophy at the Sydney Open. Paired with Indian partner Sani Mirza, the Czech-Indian partnership went down 4:6 4:6 against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Hungary’s Timea Babos in the final. Strycová and Mirza had been looking for their third title together.
Slovak police have charged a Czech with burglary from the Bratislava villa of the well known actor and former politician Milan Kňažko. The actor shot the intruder during the incident. Local media said the Czech was aged 24 and came from Strakonice. Kňažko also served as Slovak foreign minister in the early 1990s and culture minister from 1998 to 2002. His villa was sited in a select district of the capital near the Slavín monument. Media reports said Kňažko fired three times with his legally held weapon and shot the suspect burglar in the legs.
Lawmakers have voted to tighten the rules for so-called “independent” presidential candidates who seek to qualify for the campaign through the collection of signatures. The lower house passed a motion calling for passport or identity card numbers to accompany the details of citizens backing would be presidential candidates in petitions. These must obtain backing from 50,000 citizens. The other route to stand is by getting support from sufficient lawmakers in parliament. Last time round in the first direct presidential elections four years ago a series of would be candidates were disqualified after checks on some of the signatures suggested they were false. The lawmakers also voted to refuse foreigners from other EU countries who only have temporary residency the right to vote in local elections although the government pushed for the change to be made.
Fresh snow and high winds are complicating traffic in many parts of the country. The Road Maintenance Authority closed the main road to Poland via Harrachov for trucks during the night and the restriction is likely to remain in place throughout Friday. More snow is expected in the course of the day and meteorologists have warned of gale force winds in the western parts of the country reaching 110 km per hour in places.