Josef Hasil, also known as the "King of Šumava" due to his role
as a people smuggler for those who were trying to cross the tightly guarded
Czechoslovak-German border after the onset of communism, died in the United
States on Saturday at the age of 95.
Hasil was a border guard, which enabled him to help persecuted people find a way into West Germany. In 1949 he was exposed and arrested, but managed to escape from jail and serve as an agent for the CIA. He eventually emigrated to the United States.
The man, whose life inspired a number of books and a film adaptation, received the Medal for Bravery from then president Václav Havel in 2001.
On Sunday, across the country, Czech politicians and the wider public
marked the 30 year anniversary since the brutal crackdown by police on
protesters passing through Národní třída in Prague sparked the
beginning of the end of communism through the Velvet Revolution.
Leading politicians, including the prime minister, laid down wreaths at the revolution memorial on Národní on Sunday morning. In Prague, the largest celebrations took place in the centre around Národní street and Wenceslas Square, but special programs also took place in other cities and in many of the country's leading arts institutions such as the National Museum and the National Gallery.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš laid down flowers at the Velvet
Revolution memorial on Prague's Národní třída on Sunday morning.
The act was acompanied by loud whistling and verbal disagreement from
onlookers. Flowers have also been laid down by other leading politicians
including Minister of Finance Alena Schillerová, Prague Mayor Zdeněk
Hřib and Social Democrat leader Jan Hamáček.
The move by the prime minister was not expected. Earlier in the week he had announced that he would give his speech related to the anniversary at the opening of a special exhibition at the National Museum. His public tributes to anniversaries connected with resistance to Communist rule have been repeatedly met with scorn from onlookers in the past years, who highlight the fact that he had been listed as an agent of the Secret Police in Slovak archives.
Showers are expected to continue in parts of the country on Sunday. Clouds will be heaviest in the west of the country, where temperatures could be as low as 10 degrees Celsius. In central and eastern parts skies will be slightly brighter. Temperatures in Moravie are expected to be the warmest, reaching up to 17 degrees Celsius. In the central parts of the country they will hover between 11 to 15 degrees.
Czech president Miloš Zeman and his Slovak counterpart Zuzana Čaputová
opened the Czech House in Bratislava on Saturday, which will house a Czech
Centre as well as CzechTrade, CzechTourism and CzechInvest offices. Mr.
Zeman said that he sees it as the fulfillment of his dream.
The event was preceeded by a symbolic laying of wreaths by the Comenius University in the Slovak capital, where student demostrations for democracy took place on November 16, 1989.
In a press statement published on Friday, the Czech Ministry for the
Environment said it was against the possiblity of expanding the Polish
brown-coal mine located in Turów near the Czech-Polish border. The
decision to rule against the move was made in cooperation with the Liberec
Region and the Czech Geological Survey.
If the project does go ahead, the Czech Republic would require financial compensation in case of damages or funds for the formation of a sealing wall that would prevent the escape of groundwater.
Protesters gathered on Prague's Letná plain to demonstrate against
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Minister of Justice Marie Benešová,
calling on both to resign. According to the organisers there were as many
as 300,000 people in attendance. The two-hour demonstration, which began at
2pm on Saturday, was the latest in a series of protests that have been
going on since April this year. Organisers Million Moments for Democracy
set out new demands on the prime minister, while also calling on opposition
parties to find a way to increase their strength and vowing to organise new
demonstrations if the prime minister interferes in the country's
justice system, media, receives a pardon from the president, or if his
alleged conflict of interests results in a withdrawal of EU subsidies.
Protestors suspect the Czech prime minister has been seeking to influence a criminal investigation into suspicions he committed EU subsidy fraud. However, the prime minister denies this and earlier this year, the criminal proceedings against him regarding an alleged case of subsidy fraud related to the Stork's Nest farm were halted by the state attorney investigating the case.
Hundreds of Czechs living abroad joined today's protest on
Prague's Letná plain from remote locations in Europe, America and
Asia. They called on Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to get rid of his control
of Agrofert, the company he founded, which they believe he still has
influence on. Alternatively, they believe he should resign.
Mr. Babiš relinquished his stake in the company in 2017, but a preliminary EU audit suggested he still controls his company via trust funds.
An ultralight plane crashed into the Labe river on Saturday afternoon,
Czech Television reports. The pilot was found dead in the river. An
investigation into the crash will be carried out with the involvement of
A similar incident happened two months earlier near the village of Hrušovany in the west of the country. The two crew members who were recovered survived but suffered injuries.
Students demonstrating in the main building of Charles University in Prague
against climate change and the current rector of the university Tomas Zima
say that they will continue occupying the venue at least until the end of
this weekend. The main entrance to the building has been occupied by
students from a number of Czech universities since Wednesday.
The protestors insist that Mr. Zima is a barrier for the university's efforts to tackle climate change, but the rector says that this is nonsense and refuses to resign. The university authorities have offered to resolve the issue through a debate at the next Charles University academic senate meeting, which will include a special discussion on climate change.