Czech daily news roundup: Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Czechia moves to treat Russian ‘Z’ symbol like swastika, over half of Ukrainian refugees are children, Zelensky receives Czechia’s highest state award. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 08.03.2022 09:31:00 (updated on 08.03.2022) Reading time: 5 minutes

16:24 EU unveils plan to cut dependency on Russian gas

The European Commission plans to reduce the EU's dependency on Russian gas by two-thirds this year and end Russian gas supplies "much earlier than 2030" as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The bloc hopes to achieve the change by switching more quickly to renewable energy sources and while locating alternative gas supplies. National governments will be largely responsible for implementing the proposals, according to the EC's statement.

14:03 Refugee registration deadline extended to 30 days

The deadline for Ukrainian refugees to register their presence in Czechia will be extended from the current three days to 30 days, according to Interior Minister Vít Rakušan. The change comes after overcrowding at the Prague Assistance Center for refugees forced the facility to close down yesterday. The government will discuss the proposed change along with proposals to integrate Ukrainian children into pre-school education. Rakušan said that the Interior Ministry believes the maximum number of people coming from Ukraine for whom the Czech Republic could provide basic comfort and accommodation in the regions is around 250,000, but the wave is expected to be bigger.

13:12 Police accuse former Czech MP of rape

The Prague Metropolitan Public Prosecutor’s Office says police are launching a criminal prosecution of an individual over rape; Denik N daily writes the person is former member of the Czech lower house of parliament Dominik Feri, whom several women accused of sexual violence and harassment last year. Feri, aged 25, resigned from parliament in May 2021 in reaction to the testimonies of the women.

Feri has apologized for his inappropriate behavior in some situations but said he has never committed sexual violence. He also left his party, TOP 09, and withdrew from public life, announcing that he would not run in the general election held last autumn.

Feri posted a reaction to the news that there has been a step forward in his case after nine months on Instagram today. "I will prove my innocence, like in all the other cases in this," Seznam Zpravy news server quotes him as saying.

12:48 Czechia could apply to U.S. for aid money over Ukraine

The Czech Republic and other countries accepting refugees from Ukraine will be able to request finances from a special fund set up by the U.S. government to help refugees or people living in countries affected by natural disasters, U.S. chargé d'affairs Jennifer Bachus told Czech reporters today. Bachus said that there should be $6.4 billion in the fund to provide aid to Ukrainians. Representatives from the Plzeň region, where Bachus made the announcement, said they plan to apply for finances from the fund after discussions with the Czech government.

11:45 Czechia moves to treat Russian ‘Z’ symbol like swastika

Czech police want to be able to punish the display of the “Z” symbol used by the Russian armed forces in Ukraine in the same way that they can punish displays of the Nazi swastika symbol. The sign originally referred to military equipment used by the Russian army in Ukraine, but in recent days it has also become a symbol of support for Russian occupation. The symbol has even been photographed in public places in Prague, for example at Pardubice railway station on Monday. Lawyers are now preparing a manual for the police on how to approach displays of the letter. It’s thought the manual will encourage “Z” symbols to be viewed as “the promotion and support of a movement aimed at suppressing freedoms.”

Refugee crisis Over half of Ukrainian refugees are children, says Minister

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said that over half of the Ukrainian refugees arriving in the Czech Republic are children. Among the adults who have arrived in Czechia, 80 percent are women. This is no surprise given that Ukraine banned all men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country as a measure to help protect the country against Russian invasion.

55 percent of those fleeing the conflict are children, and around four-fifths of the refugee population is heading for the Czech capital Prague, Rakušan said, with most of the arrivals able to arrange accommodation with acquaintances already living in the Czech Republic. The Interior Minister claimed the migration wave is unparalleled in its scope, with over 100,000 people already arriving in Czechia and with the Interior Ministry having already granted over 57,000 special visas.

Russia Czechs insist on tougher sanctions against Moscow

The Czech government is insisting on the harshest possible sanctions against Russia including the total barring of the country from the SWIFT payment system, according to the Foreign Ministry. Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová made a similar call for total Russian expulsion from SWIFT on Sunday.

So far only seven banks have been hit by SWIFT sanctions, and a full break with all Russian banks would complicate payments for Russian deliveries of gas and oil. Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský told reporters that the Czech government is also considering measures that go above and beyond EU sanctions, such as the seizure of Russian oligarchs’ property.

Heroism Zelensky receives Czechia’s highest state award

Czech President Miloš Zeman bestowed the Czech Republic’s highest state decoration on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday evening. Zeman praised Zelensky’s courage and bravery while announcing his Order of the White Lion award.

“Even though the United States offered to evacuate him, he stayed in the capital city of his country, from where he is managing its defense,” said Zeman. The ceremony was otherwise marked by Zeman’s eccentric attitude to public speaking; he defended psychiatrist Jaroslav Matýs from criticism by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, claiming that “Greta Thunberg is a sociopath child.” Some invited guests meanwhile refused to attend the ceremony in protest at Zeman’s previous pro-Russian views.

Media freedom Czech Radio withdraws correspondent from Moscow

Czech Radio has withdrawn its permanent correspondent Ivana Milenkovičová from Moscow has a result of a new misinformation law threatening those who speak out against the Russian armed forces with up to fifteen years in prison. The law on disinformation has been deemed “a risk too great” for the correspondent to remain in place.

The only permanent Czech correspondent is now Czech Television’s Karel Rozánek. Czech TV said it is monitoring the situation but Rozánek is staying in place for now. Many foreign news outlets, including CNN, the BBC, CBC and Bloomberg have withdrawn their correspondents from Russia over the new law. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has suspended its operations in the country.

Czech army Czech troops head to Slovakia to tackle refugee crisis

A Czech military convoy will arrive in Slovakia today to help operate a humanitarian camp for 400 Ukrainian refugees. The arrival of the convoy follows the work of 50 Czech police officers in Slovakia, helping with the registration of refugees.

Logistics specialists from east and central Bohemia have been sent with tents, porta-cabins and power generators to Slovakia, based on “an urgent request by Slovakia,” according to the Defense Ministry. More than 128,000 refugees have entered Slovakia from Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24.

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