News in brief for April 27: Russian hackers target Prague municipality websites

The top headlines for the Czech Republic on Thursday, April 27, 2023, updated regularly to keep you up to speed. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 27.04.2023 08:33:00 (updated on 27.04.2023) Reading time: 6 minutes

sport Czech Olympic Committee affirms enmity to Russia in 2024 Olympics

The Czech Olympic Committee (COV) has decided at a plenary session held this afternoon to oppose the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Olympic qualifiers and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris for as long as the Ukraine war persists.

The COV today also granted its head, Jiri Kejval, stronger grounds for negotiations with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has recommended that international sports federations find ways to reintegrate Russian and Belarusian athletes into the international sports scene under a neutral flag.

CYBERCRIME Russian hacking group launches attack on Prague websites

A Russian hacking group today attacked the servers of the Prague municipality, which affected its websites. According to Jiří Károla, director of one of the city’s IT departments, the IP address of the attacking server was based in Russia. This caused several city-run websites, including, to stop working. Normal service has now been resumed.

At the beginning of March, Russian hackers also targeted one of Czechia’s major banks ČSOB. According to the Ministry of Interior, the number of Russia-driven cyberattacks has increased substantially since February 2022.

event Over a dozen units of firefighters battle blaze near Prague

Sixteen units of firefighters have attended the scene of a large fire in Kladno, a town about 20 kilometers away from Prague’s Václav Havel Airport.

Wreckages of cars caught fire for an unknown reason in the afternoon at a company depot, leading the Central Bohemia fire department to announce a special level of alarm for the area. Some can be seen at least 10 kilometers from Kladno. About two people are said to have been injured in the fire, with one sent to hospital.

environment Czech air quality remains good, experts say

According to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, air quality in Czechia remained at a good level last year, despite the fact that a proportion of the population reverted to cheaper methods of heating due to high energy costs in 2022. Concentrations of air pollutants (excluding surface-level ozone) reached one of the lowest values in the past 10 years.

In 2022, the annual average concentrations of the carcinogenic benzo(a)pyrene exceeded the polluting limit at roughly 38 percent of recording stations in Czechia – about the same level as the past two years.

LAW Anti-government protest organizer handed jail sentence

A Czech court has given Ladislav Vrabel, the organizer of several anti-government protests held by the Czechia in First Place populist group, a four-month suspended prison sentence due to spreading alarmist views. Vrabel is accused of unjustly causing fear and anxiety during several protests in the center of Prague in the past eight months.

Vrabel had said late last year that the Czech government planned to attack Russia with nuclear warheads. The protest organizer maintained his innocence in court today, saying that some of his statements were taken out of context and also noting the presence of free speech in Czechia. 

EDUCATION War-denying teacher faces three years in jail

A Prague-based teacher who is accused of defending Russia’s military presence in Ukraine and denying genocide is facing up to three years in prison, according to the Prague Metropolitan Public Prosecutor's Office. In Czechia, it is a criminal offense to deny, approve, or justify genocide. 

She is said to have told her classmates (who were about 13 years old) in April 2022 that “nothing bad” was happening in Kyiv and Ukraine. The students then secretly recorded one of her lessons. The school in Prague 6 dismissed the teacher soon after.

LAW Ex-MP accused of rape continues to deny allegations

Former Czech member of parliament Dominik Feri has today again denied the indictment accusing him of two counts of rape and attempted rape. He discussed in substantial detail the alleged contradictions in the statements of the plaintiffs and witnesses. According to Feri, sexual encounters did occur, but all were consensual. 

Feri, now aged 26, is accused of spiking (illegally putting drugs in somebody’s drink) a 17-year-old girl in 2016 and then raping her. He is also said to have forced himself on a separate girl at his apartment in the same year, as well as at the Chamber of Deputies building. Feri attempted suicide in May 2022.

TRANSPORT Czech Railways reports CZK 400 million profit in 2022

Czechia’s state rail carrier Česká dráhy (Czech Railways) has today reported a gross profit of CZK 396 million for 2022. 

This comes after poor financial years for the company during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Czech Railways made about CZK 2 billion more last year than in 2021. The company is likely to see further solid profits this year following its decision to hike ticket prices. The company also transported 157 million customers in 2022 – 36 million more than in 2021. 

Politics Budget talks to continue following six-hour negotiations

Czech coalition parties have continued talks on a public finance consolidation package aimed at reducing the structural deficit by about one percent of GDP. Representatives of the five parties, the Civic Democrats (ODS), Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), TOP 09, Mayors and Independents (STAN), and Pirates, have been debating 60 measures, which they expect to present by mid-May.

The consolidation package will be based on recommendations by the National Economic Council (NERV), which has proposed a set of 12 measures on the expenditure side and 17 on the revenue side, for a total of CZK 200bn ($9.4bn).

Diplomacy Bucharest 9 meet in Warsaw, talk Russian aggression

The Bucharest Nine (B9) group, including the Czech Republic, discussed joint action in response to Russian aggression against Ukraine at a meeting of defense ministers in Warsaw on Wednesday. The B9 group, which also includes Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia, rejected attempts to revive the Russian empire and emphasized the security of NATO's eastern flank.

They also discussed preparations for the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, plans for building a deterrence system and defense of the eastern flank, joint exercises, and cooperation among B9 countries. The B9 group was established in 2015.

CRIME Police seize millions of euros worth of marijuana

Austrian police have seized a record one tonne of marijuana worth around €4.2m near Vienna and arrested 13 people, including a 29-year-old Czech woman and a 53-year-old Austrian. The group, which included citizens of Croatia and Serbia, had been trafficking the drug for years and grew cannabis in halls with an area of 2,000 sq m and an apartment in Vienna's Brigittenau district.

The police also found gold and cash worth almost €300,000, as well as forged passports at the locations. In a typical year, the Austrian police discover around two tons of marijuana throughout the country.

Russia Czechia sanctions Patriarch Kirill of Moscow

The Czech Republic has imposed its first internal sanctions, including a ban on entering the country and freezing any assets, on Patriarch Kirill of Moscow for his support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Czech government approved the move under its "Magnitsky law," which allows it to sanction individuals who violate or threaten Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty, or independence.

The EU had abandoned sanctions against Kirill due to Hungary's opposition, but the Czech Republic proposed his inclusion on its national list. The country plans to add further names, and the Financial Analytical Office is responsible for freezing assets.

economy Tatra Trucks to test hydrogen models

Tatra Trucks is preparing to test a prototype hydrogen-powered truck in Kopřivnice, Czech Republic, with the aim of launching it for production by the end of 2025 or in 2026. The company is collaborating with Czech research organisations and university workplaces, as well as Devinn, a Jablonec nad Nisou-based firm specialising in hydrogen technology development.

Although Tatra is optimistic about the vehicle's progress, director of research and development Radomír Smolka admitted the hydrogen truck is currently expensive and would require state subsidies or customer relief to be of commercial interest. Smolka also noted that evolving battery technologies could lead to further developments before the truck enters production.

Weather Upcoming warmer temps to dip in Czechia

The Czech Republic is experiencing cold temperatures with ground frosts expected on Friday morning. The weekend will see a warm-up with temperatures reaching up to 18 degrees, but showers are expected in some areas, particularly on Saturday. Witch burning Sunday should be without precipitation.

The next week will see a gradual cooling down. Cloudy to overcast conditions with some rain or showers are expected throughout the week, with occasional light showers and snow in mountainous regions. The wind will be light to moderate, changing direction from southerly to easterly during the week.

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