Czech morning news in brief: top headlines for April 21, 2021

Czech Republic asks NATO for statement on Vrbětice case, Zeman to appoint new foreign minister today, and court rules in favor of Prague Pride protestors. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 21.04.2021 09:25:00 (updated on 21.04.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

Czech Republic asks NATO for a joint statement on the Vrbětice case

Czech acting Foreign Minister Jan Hamáček has summoned Russian Ambassador Alexandr Zmeyevsky for a meeting Wednesday afternoon in order to convey his protest against Russia's conduct after the Czech Republic expelled 18 employees of the Embassy of Russia, Hamáček told reporters Tuesday evening. The Czech Republic did so over what it considers a likely involvement of Russian GRU agents in the blast of the ammunition warehouses in Vrbetice, south Moravia, in 2014, Hamáček said at a press conference following a meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš yesterday. Russia retaliated by expelling 20 employees of the Czech Embassy in Moscow, which, as Hamacek said, paralyzed its work. The Czech Republic has asked for a joint statement on the NATO level and a further meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) before the end of the week. The Czech Foreign Ministry said the Czech Republic had thanked its allies for their signs of solidarity.

President Zeman to appoint new Czech foreign Minister today

On Wednesday afternoon, President Miloš Zeman will appoint Jakub Kulhánek (ČSSD) as Foreign Minister. He will replace Tomáš Petříček (ČSSD) who was dismissed as foreign minister last week. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Jan Hamáček (ČSSD) is currently the acting head of Czech diplomacy. Kulhánek is one of the long-term members of the Social Democracy leadership. He advised former Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. Since mid-July 2018, he has been Hamáček's deputy at the Ministry of the Interior, having previously acted as his parliamentary adviser when Hamáček chaired the Chamber of Deputies. Kulhánek's nomination has been criticized due to his work for the Chinese company CEFC Europe. 

Czech police monitoring speed in hundreds of locations today

Czech police officers will monitor compliance with the maximum permitted speed in hundreds of areas around the country today. Sites were selected by the police based on a public vote in February. For the sixth time, police patrols will take part in a Europe-wide security action called the Speed ​​Marathon, the aim of which is to reduce road accidents and increase the safety and fluidity of traffic. The police will measure the speed of cars at selected risk points, of which there are approximately 800, throughout Wednesday. "The aim is not to detect as many offenses as possible, but to draw attention to the risks that speeding brings, which results in thousands of accidents and dozens of wasted lives every year," police said. According to the police, driving speed is one of the most common causes of traffic accidents. Last year it accounted for 43 percent of vehicle-related deaths.

Eurostat: Czech Republic, Slovakia have highest excess mortality in February

The Czech Republic and Slovakia reported the highest excess mortality rate in the EU in February and the Slovak death toll was 65 percent higher than the average between 2016 and 2019, while the Czech Republic saw a 40 percent growth against the average, the European Statistical Office (Eurostat) said today. In contrast, many EU member states show a lower February figure in comparison with average numbers from recent years. The mortality development corresponds to the coronavirus epidemic in the given country, Eurostat said. Slovakia ranked first with its 65 percent growth, the Czech Republic came second with 40 percent, and Portugal followed with 24 percent more February deaths as against preceding years. The Czech Statistical Office (CSU) says some 13,500 people died in the Czech Republic in February, roughly 3,500 people more than the average numbers in 2015 to 2019. The Health Ministry says more than 4,000 people with confirmed coronavirus infection died in February.

Court: Czech police violated rights of people not allowed to protest Prague Pride

Police infringed on the rights of eight people when they did not let them into the Prague Pride parade in 2014, where they wanted to protest against the event, a court ruled yesterday. In its decision in the summer of 2019, the Constitutional Court stated that the police have the right to order someone not to enter a specific place but must either respond to the person's behavior or have a reasonable suspicion that the person intends to use violence. A judge ruled that the lawsuit was justified and the police appeal was not in accordance with the law. Both parties can appeal against Tuesday's decision.

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