Czech daily news roundup: Monday, Feb. 28, 2022

Prime Minister Fiala speaks at Wenceslas Square protest, peace talks to begin at Belarus border, Czechs called back from Russia, Belarus amid flight bans.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 28.02.2022 09:02:00 (updated on 28.02.2022) Reading time: 6 minutes

15:50 President Zeman would allow Czechs to fight in Ukraine

President Zeman's spokesperson has announced that the Czech head of state is in favor of issuing exceptions for Czechs allowing them to go and fight Russia in Ukraine. Zeman will discuss the matter with Prime Minister Petr Fiala on Thursday, and will also seek the views of the Ministries of Defense, Interior and Foreign Affairs. A Czech thinktank director has estimated that several hundred Czechs would like to go to fight in Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on foreigners to join in Ukraine's resistance; some countries have already allowed citizens to leave to serve in the Ukrainian army.

15:04 Non-profits raise over CZK 410 million for Ukraine

Czech non-profit organizations have raised hundreds of millions of crowns to help fund Ukrainians in their fight against Russia. Collections have been made via the Darujme.cz portal, with organizations also receiving money through their websites or via SMS messages. The Ukrainian embassy is also collecting donations, with money to go towards the purchase of defense equipment.

14:33 RegioJet launches humanitarian rail bridge to Ukraine

Czech rail operator RegioJet will launch a daily humanitarian "rail bridge" between Ukraine and Prague from Tuesday, together with freight carrier ČD Cargo and Rail Cargo Group. This will ensure the evacuation of people in need and the transportation of humanitarian aid from the People In Need charity. Refugees will get free transportation on the twenty-two carriage trains, providing a large passenger transport capacity. RegioJet will cover the cost of the operations at its own expense.

14:31 Public transport in Prague free for Ukrainian citizens

Prague has introduced free transport for Ukrainian citizens effective immediately. A valid passport or ID card entitles Ukrainian passengers to free transport in Prague as well as on suburban and regional buses and trains. "We want to make it easier for our Ukrainian friends to move around Prague as much as possible and not burden them with the additional administration," says the deputy mayor for transport Adam Scheinherr.

13:36 Dozens killed in Russian shelling of Kharkiv

Heavy Russian shelling of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries, according to a Ukrainian government advisor. The exact number of victims remains unknown. The besieged city announced a blanket curfew this morning due to the Russian offensive. Shelling today hit suburbs east of the city center.

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13:33 Fiala backs Ukraine's bid to join the EU

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala has expressed support for Ukraine's request to join the EU, saying it must be made clear that Ukraine is welcome in the European community of democratic states. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky requested this morning that his country be immediately admitted to the EU. Fiala said that although he is a "fan of standard procedures," the current situation is far from standard.

12:05 Coordinated system for accepting Ukrainian refugees agreed

Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakušan and Ukrainian Ambassador to Prague Yehven Perebyinis have agreed on mutual cooperation for accepting Ukrainian nationals in the Czech Republic. Rakušan tweeted about the agreement after meeting the diplomat today. He did not elaborate on the specific terms of the agreement, except that it concerns helping Ukrainian refugees. Rakušan will give a press briefing later today on Czechia's four-level aid program based on the intensity of aid required by any given situation. Last week the government activated the second level of aid within this system, at which up to 5,000 people can be helped.

10:20 Ostrava to consider ending Volgograd partnership

Ostrava, the Czech Republic's third largest city, is considering ending its seven-decade partnership with Russian city Volgograd over the war in Ukraine. Ostrava Mayor Tomáš Macura said the city is considering the move, depending on the stance of Volgograd's authorities in the war. Ostrava has already cut off the city of Donetsk as a partner metropolis, over the region's support for Russian separatism.

10:17 Czech fugitive on Europol's most-wanted list surrenders in Dakar

Stanislav Seidl, 49, a Czech national who has been on Europol's list of the most wanted criminals since 2016 turned himself in at the Czech embassy in Dakar, server SeznamZpravy reported today. Seidl disappeared abroad in 2011 when he was due to start serving a prison sentence for robbing an optician. The international manhunt for Seidl started in autumn 2011. Besides property crime, Seidl's criminal profile also entails illegal trade with weapons, ammunition, explosives, money laundering, and human smuggling. Seidl is currently detained at a police station on the outskirts of Dakar. He told the server that he came out of hiding due to a lack of money and poor mental state.

Anti-war protest Prime Minister Fiala speaks at Wenceslas Square protest

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala spoke to a crowd of 80,000 at a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Sunday afternoon. Ukrainian Ambassador Yevhen Perebyjnis also spoke, thanking the Czech government and people for their support during the crisis. Many speakers called for the creation of a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

The protest began with a minute’s silence for those killed in Ukraine. Fiala then said the Czech government is seeking further sanctions against Russia, describing himself as “glad that the world has adopted harsh, strong sanctions that will hurt Russian leaders.” The organizers of the demonstration warned that “Putin’s desire for power will clearly not stop at Russia’s borders” and called the war in Ukraine a struggle “for the freedom of all of Europe.”

Russia-Ukraine Peace negotiations to begin at Belarus border

A Ukrainian delegation has arrived at the Belarusian border ahead of negotiations over the ongoing conflict with Russia to be held this morning by the Pripyat river. The delegation’s security has been guaranteed by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. Independent Belarusian channel Nexta wrote on Twitter that “the Ukrainian delegation is on its way to the venue in Belarus.”

The exact location for the talks is unknown. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky initially rejected the idea of peace talk in Belarus, given that some Russian forces were launched into Ukraine from that country. Zelensky has said he does not hold out much hope for the talks, but wants to show that Ukraine desires peace. Zelensky himself will not attend the talks for security reasons.

Czechs abroad Czechs called back from Russia, Belarus amid flight bans

The Czech Foreign Ministry is calling on Czech nationals in Russia and Belarus to return home. Further information will be released on the Ministry’s website and sent through the DROZD travelers’ system. Czech embassy staff in Ukraine have already returned back to their home country.

The call for Czechs to return comes amid the widespread cancelation of flights resulting from the closure of EU airspace to Russian airlines. Aeroflot has canceled all flights to Europe from today until further notice. Road and rail traffic is also difficult in many places due to the escalating crisis of refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Media Czech TV reporters arrested in Ukraine over suspected spying

Reporters from Czech Television and CNN Prima News were temporarily detained by police in Ukraine on Friday and Saturday after they were suspected of being spies. CNN’s reporter Patrik Kaizr and cameraman David Malý were arrested close to Ukraine’s border with Poland after locals reported them over supposed espionage. They were held at gunpoint and handcuffed, before being forced to leave Ukraine.

Czech Television reported Andreas Papadopulos meanwhile wrote on Twitter than Ukrainian police arrested them on their way to Kiev. Police believed the film crew was filming nearby military facilities. Meanwhile, Seznam Zpravy reporters were also arrested, this time for taking photos of Ukrainian military. Ukrainian fears of sabotage and espionage are high as a result of the invasion launched last Thursday by Russia.

Sport Czech footballers will not play Russia in World Cup qualifier

Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Czech Football Association executive committee has decided that the Czech national team will not play Russia in a March playoff qualifier for the next World Cup. The Association’s decision follows similar moves by Swedish and Polish football authorities.

International footballing body FIFA initiated the talks on whether or not to play Russia, although it has not yet excluded Russia from World Cup qualifiers. FIFA didn’t rule out that such a step could be taken in future. The Czech team is due to play Sweden on March 24, and then face the winner of a match between Russia and Poland. How the refusal to play Russia will be resolved remains unclear: the Russians might be excluded from the competition altogether, or they could be named winners of those matches by default.

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