Czech daily news roundup: Friday, March 4, 2022

Czech troops being sent to NATO's eastern flank, impunity agreed for Czechs wishing to fight in Ukraine, 5,000 refugees reaching Czechia every day. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 04.03.2022 08:54:00 (updated on 05.03.2022) Reading time: 4 minutes

14:05 Some 8,400 Ukrainians register at immigration police on Thursday

On Thursday, 8,400 refugees from Ukraine registered with the immigration police or assistance centers and since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there have been over 33,000 of them, immigration police told journalists today. For better management of the refugee crisis, a state of emergency takes effect at midnight. The Interior Ministry has issued about 22,000 visas to the arrivals. Speaking to the press following a meeting of the Central Crisis Staff, Interior Minister Vit Rakusan warned of payment to any mediators, stressing that procedures with visas, permits, and accommodation were for free. He noted that fraudulent "Ukrainian schemes" have begun demanding payment for moderating the process.

13:52 Parliament heads won't attend award-giving ceremony at castle

Heads of both chambers of the Czech parliament, Miloš Vystrčil and Markéta Pekarová Adamová, will not attend the awards ceremony held by President Miloš Zeman at Prague Castle on Monday due to Zeman's one-time friendly stance toward Russian President Putin, they wrote today. Senate deputy head Jiří Růžička announced that he would abstain from the ceremony as well. Lower house deputy heads Jan Bartošek and Olga Richterová have also declined the Castle's invitation. Opposition deputies including ANO lower house heads will attend the ceremony. On March 7, Zeman will bestow state decorations intended to be awarded on October 28, 2020, and 2021 canceled due to the coronavirus epidemic and Zeman's long hospitalization, respectively.

9:58 Russian missiles damage Czech honorary consulate in Kharkiv

On Tuesday, the Czech honorary consulate in Kharkiv was damaged in a Russian missile attack, but consul Oleg Chigrinov and his assistant did not suffer any injuries, the Foreign Ministry reported on Friday. "The pressure wave destroyed the windows of the consulate building. The extent of the damage inside is not yet known," the Foreign Ministry said. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleš Chmelař expressed concern in a phone call with Russian Ambassador Alexander Zmeyevsky today.

NATO Czech troops to be sent to Slovakia

Czech soldiers will be sent to Slovakia to bolster NATO’s eastern flank, with 400 personnel to head to the country bordering Ukraine. Defense Minister Jana Černochová announced the deployment, saying troops would come from mechanized and logistics units, military police, command and communications staff.

A joint mission is to be formulated and agreed by government and parliament. Černochová argued for the formation of a Slovak battlegroup comprising Czech as well as Slovak, Hungarian, Romanian and Bulgarian personnel. Troops involved in NATO’s very rapid reaction force should be included in the mission, Černochová said.

Foreign Legion Czechs can fight for Ukraine with impunity

Following talks at Lány Castle Thursday, President Miloš Zeman and Prime Minister Petr Fiala announced that Czechs who wish to join the war effort in Ukraine can do so without risk of punishment. Czech law forbids citizens from fighting for any foreign army, but the PM and president agreed to resolve that legal hurdle by granting anyone who fights in Ukraine an automatic presidential pardon.

Fiala said issuing explicit permission for the population to fight for Ukraine would be impossible as is granting individual approval given the high volume of requests, believed to be in the hundreds. The leaders agreed that a guarantee of non-punishment remains the best solution for answering Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call for a “foreign legion” to help protect his country.

SPORT Czech footballers won't be penalized for removing shirts

The Czech Football Association has announced that players who remove their shirts to reveal messages of support for fighting in Ukraine will not be penalized, as is usually the case when players remove their shirts in celebration. Players can now remove their shirts or cover their heads with a shirt “if they want to disclose symbols or slogans supporting fighting Ukraine”. The Czech FA said in a statement that the measure in support of Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia last week, is in effect until further notice.

Refugee crisis 5,000 refugees reaching Czechia daily

Around 5,000 people a day are arriving in the Czech Republic as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Interior Minister Vít Rakušan, a figure that previously accounted for the total number of migrants arriving in Czechia in an entire month. Rules for processing refugees are being simplified from Friday, as a new state of emergency comes into effect.

Rakušan praised the system established by the government for dealing with the refugee crisis. Lawmakers will now debate financial support for those in need, with sums to be distributed sufficiently to cover individuals’ basic needs, including accommodation. Czechia will explore the option of using EU funds to cover this expense.

Weapons deliveries Czechia sending more arms to Ukraine

The Czech Defense Ministry will send arms and ammunition worth CZK 17 million as a gift from Czech arms makers to Ukraine. The new delivery takes the value of the Czech contribution to the Ukrainian defense effort to over CZK 650 million.

The package of donated material comes from Česká zbrojovka, Holík International DSS and Sellier & Bellot. It includes hundreds of machine guns, assault rifles, submachine guns, over 100,000 cartridges and 1,000 gloves. Transfer of the goods to Ukraine will be ensured by the Defense Ministry.

Hospitality Hotel fees for Ukrainians in Prague canceled

Citizens of Ukraine fleeing conflict in their home country can stay in Prague hotels without paying fees to the city authorities by proving their identity with a travel document. The initiative from Prague City Hall will run throughout this month, complementing independent moves from hotels to offer free accommodation for those fleeing the war.

Waiving the CZK 50 per night fee for Ukrainians was described by city authorities as a “symbolic gesture based on the obvious assumption that the city will not capitalize on the suffering of others.” The Association of Hotels and Restaurants welcomed the move.

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