Czech sympathizers of the Russian motorcycle club Night Wolves paid homage
to the memory of Russian soldiers killed during World War II in
Prague's Olšany Cemetery on Friday.
Among them was MP Jaroslav Foldyna, who arrived at the cemetery with the pro-Russian activist Jiří Černohorský. Due to closed borders, the ceremony took place without the Night Wolves this year.
Members of the bikers’ club annually organize a ride across Europe to Berlin to pay their respects to Russian war heroes. Many countries view their presence as a provocation and a security risk.
The Czech Republic is marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War
II in Europe.
The traditional events such as a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Monument on Prague’s Vítkov hill have had to be modified due to the coronavirus crisis.
President Miloš Zeman, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, members of Parliament, war veterans and church dignitaries arrived at the site separately to lay wreaths and bow to those who laid down their lives for freedom.
Ceremonies at the memorial of the Winged Lion in Klárov, honouring the 2,500 Czechoslovak men and women who served in the British Royal Air Force during WWII, Prague’s Olšany cemetery and other locations are similarly restricted.
Many events have had to be moved online. May 8 is a state holiday in the Czech Republic.
A three-meter-high, hand-made wrought iron arch covered with 52 blooms has
been erected in the town Kdyně, in south Bohemia in memory of WWII heroes.
The arch is the work of former police lieutenant Jiří Brož who left the ranks of the police after 20 years in service and took up the tradition of blacksmith craftsmanship which has been in his family for generations.
Brož told the ctk newsagency that originally the arch was conceived as a monument to war heroes but that in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic it had acquired a new dimension and now also represented hope for the future.
The Czech Republic had 8,031 confirmed cases of coronavirus on Friday
morning, with 57 new cases reported on Thursday. 270 people have died and
4,371 have recovered from the disease. 275 people are currently
hospitalized, 52 of them in serious condition. Close to 287,000 people have
been tested for the virus to date.
The highest number of cases is reported in Prague –now at 1,800. South Bohemia is the least infected region with only 179 confirmed cases.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has spoken out in defence of Czech
politicians who are under police protection after making decisions that
have angered Russia.
Secretary General Stoltenberg told Czech Television that NATO strongly rejected attempts to intimidate democratically elected politicians.
"Any attempt to use force or intimidate elected representatives is an attempt to undermine democracy as such and we must make it emphatically clear that this is unacceptable,” Stoltenberg said.
Three Prague mayors have been given police protection over the removal of a monument to Red Army commander Ivan Konev in Prague 6, the construction of one to the Vlasov army on the outskirts of the city and the renaming of a street in honour of the slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
The incidents have soured Czech-Russian relations and cast a shadow over the end-of-war celebrations.
One of the country’s largest bus transport services, RegioJet, has
announced it plans to restart its services offering lines to Dresden and
Berlin from next Wednesday, the Czech News Agency reports.
The company has begun selling tickets and says it also hopes to reopen the bus line between Prague and Vienna starting Monday, May 18.
Other bus transport providers have not yet specified when they intend to reopen their foreign transport services, with the lifting of restrictions abroad playing a key role in the decision.
Government measures technically enable buslines to restart their service from next Monday.
The government approved a new draft law on emergency measures, which
expands and clarifies the powers of the Ministry of Health in relation to
the coronavirus pandemic, Interior Minister Jan Hamáček said on Thursday.
This includes enabling the Health Ministry to enact emergency measures that receive government approval and are rooted in warnings from epidemiologists.
The legislation, which would be in place for a limited one year period, could also enable the government to keep certain coronavirus measures in place even after the state of emergency officially ends on May 17. The government’s plan counts on the gradual easing of restrictions in the service sector until May 25, a week longer than the state of emergency deadline.
The Czech Foreign Ministry will strengthen security measures at its embassy
in Moscow, Czech Television reported on Thursday.
According to the ministry, the measures are part of a long-term plan, which has nothing to do with the current tension in Czech-Russian relations.
The measures include perimeter protection and the control of entry into the embassy, ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Štíchová told the Czech News Agency.
Last month, demonstrations led by a Russian nationalist group took place in front of the embassy, while in front of the General Consulate in St. Petersburg another group lit a smoke bomb.
The Czech Republic’s shift towards smart quarantine is a key project and
will enable the country to end its statewide measures, Deputy Health
Minister Roman Prymula said on Thursday. Instead, focus is to be shifted to
local outbreaks of the COVID-19 coronavirus, based around swift detection
and isolation of infected citizens.
To boost the effectiveness of smart quarantine, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch urged Czechs to download the app eRouška, which creates so-called “memory maps” based on mobile phone tracking and identifies high risk areas.