Czech news in brief for November 28: Tuesday's top headlines

Controversy as pro-Russian writer appears at trade union rally, Pavel makes official vist to Italy, and snow complicates traffic in Czechia. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 28.11.2023 08:47:00 (updated on 28.11.2023) Reading time: 5 minutes

FOREIGN RELATIONS Chamber of Deputies speaker: We mustn't forget Ukraine

Czech Chamber of Deputies Speaker Markéta Pekarová Adamová today encouraged robust international support for Ukraine at the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum. Expressing concern that Ukraine's conflict might be overshadowed by the Middle East turmoil, she highlighted the need to focus on both crises and for the EU to pull together to help Ukraine.

Emphasizing Russia's broader ambitions of gaining geopolitical power, she stressed the necessity of sustained aid to Ukraine. She also lauded Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis for urging against fatigue in supporting Ukraine, acknowledging that while other countries provide weapons, Ukrainians bear the brunt of the fight. Her Berlin visit concluded a two-day Germany trip.

law Ex-PM Babiš' Agrofert takes legal action against cabinet MP

Agrofert, owned by former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, initiated today legal action against Czech Minister of the Interior Vít Rakušan for purportedly making baseless wiretapping allegations. Seeking redress, Agrofert demands an apology and the removal of Rakušan’s online statement implying illicit phone monitoring

Rakušan in response denied damaging Agrofert's reputation and expressed interest in scrutinizing Agrofert's reputation and “its security division's activities,” if he were to face the conglomerate in court. The interior minister originally made the indirect allegations when he was asked by a journalist why he had been using an encrypted phone as part of his day-to-day activities.

diplomacy Czech PM meets with Ethiopian counterpart

Prime Ministers Petr Fiala of Czechia and Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia met in Prague this afternoon to discuss enhancing economic ties, security, and aid. Fiala highlighted the mutual interest in deepening relations, citing historical connections like Czech hydrologists aiding Ethiopia since the 1970s. 

Both aim to boost collaboration in various sectors, especially in areas like mining, agriculture, and tourism, considering the potential for Czech companies and a direct flight route between Prague and Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Both leaders agreed to establish a commission to outline specific cooperation projects, emphasizing the scope for growth and development in their partnership.

health Respiratory illness and flu rise sharply in Czechia

Respiratory diseases in the Czech Republic have risen by approximately 13 percent compared to the previous week, while flu cases have surged by 125 percent, data from the  Hygienic Service of the Czech Republic shows. 

The Ministry of Health reported over 2,800 new Covid-19 cases Monday, the highest daily figure in a year and a half, with nearly 650 hospitalizations in total and 38 in intensive care. The count of people testing positive for Covid-19 continues to rise steadily. There were 199 positive cases reported on the first Monday of September, 857 on the first Monday of October, and 1,528 on the first Monday of November. 

society Lipavský: We must fight against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia

Speaking at the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance conference in Prague today, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský warned against the rise of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia due to events in the Middle East. He mentioned that cases of anti-Semitism rose 500 percent globally since early October while Islamophobia increased significantly. 

Religious freedom is also threatened in Ukraine by Russian aggression, which aims beyond territory and is part of a larger struggle against democracy. The attack on Ukraine devastated religious freedom for many. With rights under attack, cooperation is needed to protect fundamental values like tolerance. Religious leaders can also facilitate dialogue to prevent disputes, Lipavský remarked.

CRIME Man accused of starting mass 2022 Czech fires stays in custody

A Czech man, 36, charged with sparking the largest wildfire in Czech history at Bohemian Switzerland National Park, remains in custody following a court ruling. Concerns about flight risks and potential further offenses prompted the extension of his pre-trial detention.

Despite claims of innocence by his defense lawyer, the accused faces up to 15 years for endangering public safety and property damage. He's been held since May for allegedly setting fire to the park and structures near Děčín (Ústí nad Labem). Investigations estimate damages at CZK 350 million from the fire that consumed over 1,000 hectares near the Czech-German border, extinguished after 20 days.

Diplomacy President Pavel warns against declining support for Ukraine

Czech President Petr Pavel warned in an interview with the Italian publication Corriere della Sera that lessening Western support for Ukraine this winter could be favorable to Russia. He said recovering after infrastructure losses will be difficult for Ukraine and declining aid may dampen morale.

During his official visit to Italy, where the president held talks with his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome, Pavel called 2023 "crucial" for success, saying declining support could embolden regimes to use force knowing Western democracies may weaken. He criticized "insufficient" supplies hindering Ukraine's counteroffensive and said Russia would use the winter to replenish its forces and negotiate more arms deals.

Weather Heavy snow complicates traffic in Czechia

Winter weather impacted travel across parts of the Czech Republic on Monday night. Over 15 cm of snow fell in mountainous regions, blocking some railway lines in Liberec. Firefighters removed fallen trees from roads in Karlovy Vary and Hradec Králové caused by the wet, heavy snow.

The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute had warned of up to 15 cm in mountains and potential ice or snow at lower elevations as temperatures dropped. Snow drifts also posed a risk in higher areas.

Advent Prague marks start of festive season with tree decorating

A 50-year-old Norwegian spruce was raised overnight Monday in northern Bohemia and transported to Prague where municipal technology workers spent hours anchoring the 22-meter, 4.7-ton tree as temperatures dropped.

Over eight km of lights and 342 decorative balls will adorn the tree before its ceremonial lighting on Saturday, coinciding with the opening of Christmas markets. The tree owner donated it and received CZK 10,000 that he donated to a local elderly home. Its branches will later go to the zoo for the animals and the trunk will be used for apprentice woodworking projects. The tree will be lit on Saturday when the Christmas markets also start.

Controversy Pro-Russian writer appears at trade union rally

Daniel Sterzik, a well-known pro-Russian figure who writes under the pseudonym Vidlák, took the stage Monday at a Prague teacher union protest following an invitation to the stage by the chairman of the Association of Independent Trade Unions, Bohumír Dufek, who had previously appeared with him at demonstrations by the chairman of the PRO party, Jindřich Rajchl.

The Teachers' Platform association backing the teacher strike strongly objected to Sterzik's involvement, saying it discredits them. Chair Petra Mazancová called on Czech union leader Josef Středula to resign for allowing a figure who promotes disinformation to join the demonstration, but Středula denied responsibility.

Environment Czechia criticized for inadequate climate contributions

Pavel Pribyl, Director of the Czech Forum for Development Cooperation said the Czech Republic has not adequately contributed to climate change solutions as agreed upon internationally, providing only CZK 200-300 million annually despite higher pollution levels. Ministry figures show 2030 targets of CZK 1.8 billion annually but current giving is "several times lower."

The nation ranks highly for per-capita emissions globally but gives only CZK 18 per person annually, one of the EU's lowest levels. The Keeping Our Word initiative demands increased funding to climate funds to better match commitments as a loss and damage mechanism for vulnerable countries is also set to be a key COP28 outcome.

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