Czech morning news in brief: Top headlines for September 23, 2021

Russia asked for legal help on Vrbětice affair, fuel prices continue to rise, Okamura makes referendum bill condition for coalition negotiations. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 23.09.2021 09:58:00 (updated on 23.09.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

Okamura makes EU referendum law a condition for coalition negotiations

The tabling of a bill on referendums, including ones about the Czech Republic’s exit from the European Union and NATO, will be a condition of the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party entering into a government coalition, SPD head Tomio Okamura told President Miloš Zeman and the media.

Okamura said he asked Zeman to convey the SPD’s position to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, whose ANO movement is leading the polls ahead of the vote. Okamura said a bill on referendums would be an inalienable element of SPD’s negotiating position in any talks with other parties. Okamura said that the President has no problem with the proposal, being himself an advocate of referendums.

Czech Republic asks Russia for legal aid over Vrbětice explosions

The Czech Republic has asked Russia for legal aid in connection with its investigation into blasts at an ammunition depot in Vrbětice in 2014, in which Russian intelligence agents are suspected of playing a role, the Regional State Attorney’s office in Brno said. The criminal proceedings involve requests for help from several European countries, as well as Russia. Investigators are gathering evidence to clarify the motives behind the blasts.

It is has been reported that Russia has already sent answers regarding the suspected GRU attackers’ personal details. One warehouse in Vrbětice exploded in October 2014, and another followed in December the same year. The first blast killed two people. In April this year, a diplomatic rift emerged between the Czech Republic and Russia over suspicions that Moscow was behind the explosions.

Fuels in the Czech Republic keep getting more expensive

Fuels in the Czech Republic are continuing to rise in price. A liter of the best-selling Natural 95 petrol is currently being sold at an average of CZK 33.92, a tenth of a crown more expensive than last week. Diesel is CZK 0.12 more expensive than last week, with drivers now paying an average of CZK 31.79 per liter.

Fuel prices have not been so high since the beginning of July, when they were at their highest levels for about six and a half years. Fuels have been steadily rising in price since the beginning of the year. Prices fell slightly in August, but have risen again in September. According to CSS, which measures fuel prices, petrol is now CZK 6.14 more expensive than it was a year ago, while diesel in CZK 4.71 more expensive.

Torah scroll stolen by the Nazis will be used again in Prague

A Torah scroll stolen by the Nazis will return to Prague to be used for Simchat Torah, a holiday that falls later this month to celebrate the seminal Jewish text. Memorial Scrolls Trust, a London-based non-profit organization that preserves Torah scrolls and other scripture documents, said it will transfer the Prague scroll to be used by Ec Chaim, a Progressive Judaism congregation in the Czech capital, for the holiday starting on September 27.

Nazi occupiers seized the scroll, written in Brno in 1890, for display in a new Central Jewish Museum, an institution for the showcasing of Jewish liturgical objects plundered from Jewish communities. That institution later became the Jewish Museum in Prague, which is owned by the Jewish Community of Prague.

Prague sends answer to EC conflict of interest letter

The Czech Regional Development Ministry has sent an answer to a letter from the European Commission concerning an audit into conflicts of interest carried out in the Czech Republic. The Ministry said the details of the correspondence could not be released due to the Commission’s request for confidentiality.

The Commission recently rejected Prague’s request for a 60-day postponement of the deadline for providing evidence that the Czech Republic has improved its safeguards against conflicts of interest in the distribution of EU subsidies. The Czech Ministry therefore had until yesterday to provide the information provided by the Commission. In August, the Commission warned that subsidies for the Czech Republic may be suspended if measures against conflicts of interest do not improve.

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