Czech daily news roundup: Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Czech Republic braces for gas disruption, Zeman aid was victim of arson attack, Russia threatens retaliation over Czech diplomatic expulsion. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 05.04.2022 09:29:00 (updated on 05.04.2022) Reading time: 5 minutes

15:34 Senators consider constitutional lawsuit against Zeman

Senators are considering filing a constitutional lawsuit against Czech President Miloš Zeman over his controversial pardon for the head of the Lány forest administration Miloš Balák. Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Senate Constitutional Commission is pushing for a constitutional change which would make presidential pardons dependent on a co-signature from the Prime Minister. Miroslava Němcová, a Civic Democrat (ODS) senator, asked her colleagues to prepare a lawsuit against the president after the President of the Constitutional Court said Zeman's pardon was an attack on the rule of law.

Business Restructuring of Czech Airlines approved

The Municipal Court in Prague has approved a reorganization plan for bankrupt Czech Airlines. A new company Prague City Air, owned by the owners of Smartwings, will become an investor in Czech Airlines, which became insolvent last March. The court ruled that the reorganization structure drawn up by Smartwings complies will all legal requirements, and it has the approval of all five groups of creditors.

Crime Psychologists visit school murder site

Teaching resumed yesterday at the Ohradní Secondary School in Michle, Prague, where a teacher was murdered last week with a machete. The school was also visited by five psychologists, who talked about the tragic events with students and staff. The teacher was killed by a 19-year-old student last Thursday and succumbed to his injuries on the spot. The man who committed the murder faces 12 to 20 years in prison and is now in custody.

12:55 Czech soldiers setting up camp for NATO battalion in Slovakia

200 Czech soldiers have arrived in Slovakia to create conditions for the installation of a new NATO battalion on the alliance's eastern flank following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Up to 2,100 soldiers will be deployed in the country, with troops coming from six NATO members: Czechia, Poland, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Germany and the U.S.A. The battalion will be under Czech command. The 250 Czech troops from the 43rd parachute regiment now in Slovakia are joined by around 400 American, German and Dutch soldiers.

11:45 12,600 Ukrainian refugees have started work in Czechia

Some 12,600 refugees from Ukraine have so far taken up work in the Czech Republic, and 10,000 more have registered at job centers. Labor and Social Affairs Minister Marian Jurečka said the figures demonstrate an active desire from Ukrainians to find employment in Czechia. Meanwhile, 162,000 refugees have requested the humanitarian benefit of CZK 5,000 a month.

11:15 Only six diplomats left at Russian Embassy

According to the Czech Foreign Ministry, there are currently only six diplomats at the Russian Embassy in Prague. It's believed Russia's deputy ambassador to the Czech Republic was declared persona non grata last week and forced to leave the country over alleged links to Russian secret services. The expulsion followed a dramatic reduction in Russia's diplomatic presence in Prague over revelations last year about the Vrbětice arms depot explosion. Diplomatic ties have further deteriorated since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Energy Czech Republic braces for gas disruption

Czech Minister of Industry and Trade Josef Síkela said the Czech government is preparing for disruption in gas supplies as a result of a reduction in imports from Russia, as Moscow sticks to its demands that payments for gas be made in roubles. The government is preparing for all possible scenarios including a total shutdown of supplies, Síkela said.

Only two percent of Czech gas consumption is produced domestically, and the country is heavily reliant on supplies from Russia. Síkela said that in the event of an emergency, the priority would be ensuring the operation of basic infrastructure and heat supply to households. Czechia has a month’s worth of gas reserves and more than 90 days’ worth of oil and petroleum products.

Crime Zeman aide was victim of arson attack

A recent fire at a restaurant owned by Vratislav Mynář, the head of the Czech presidential office, was started deliberately, according to Mynář. He claimed he and his family were inside the building of the day of the fire, ascribing the attack to the “hateful media campaign” waged against President Zeman and his aides.

Firefighters told media that the investigation into the cause of the fire has not been concluded. Mynář’s claim that journalists are jeopardizing the lives of his children follows the publication of a video last week by an anonymous collective, which projected the Russian letter “Z” onto Prague Castle in protest at President Zeman’s pro-Russia tendencies, and promised Zeman and his associates would “never feel safe” in the Czech Republic.

Kremlin Russia threatens retaliation over Czech diplomatic expulsion

The Russian Foreign Ministry has summoned Czech Ambassador to Moscow Vitěslav Pivonka over the recent expulsion of a Russian diplomat from the Czech Republic. Pivonka was informed that the move would not be left unanswered, according to Russian state media.

Russia claimed the Czech move was a further attempt to “destroy bilateral relations.” The Czech Foreign Ministry expelled an employee of the Russian Embassy in Prague over alleged contacts with Russian secret services; Czech news outlets claimed the expulsion concerned Russian deputy ambassador Feodosiy Vladyshevsky.

Corruption Change in competition laws comes in for criticism

A planned change to public procurement laws in the Czech Republic is coming in for criticism for allowing companies convicted of corruption to compete in public tenders. The change, proposed in mid-March in a 104-page document, will result in a shift in favor of companies previously punished for tax evasion, corruption or fraud.

At the moment, companies convicted of corruption are not allowed to enter public tenders, as the law requires winners of tenders to be companies of “good repute.” But the planned amendment would allow convicted companies to simply join another company belonging to the same group, compete for a tender under the other company’s name, and then carry out major public projects.

Business Škoda Auto gets a new boss

Thomas Schäfer will be replaced as head of Škoda Auto by fellow German Klaus Zellmer, who previously worked in the board of directors of Volkswagen’s sales unit. Schäfer departs after guiding Škoda through two of its toughest ever years, encompassing the Covid pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine.

Škoda has struggled with supply chain issues and labor shortages in recent times. Schäfer will leave to take over the position of Chairman of the Board for the entire Volkswagen brand, with the change in management to take place on July 1 this year.

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