Today's headlines: Daily news refresh for Czechia

The country's top news in brief for the week of Jan. 16–20, 2023. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 16.01.2023 09:02:00 (updated on 20.01.2023) Reading time: 20 minutes

Jan. 20, 2023

ELECTION 2023 Babiš met with mixed reception in Liberec

Presidential candidate Andrej Babiš was today greeted with a hostile reception upon his visit to Liberec, a city that voted strongly in favor of fellow candidate Petr Pavel in the presidential election first round.

According to ČT24, the former prime minister was heckled by supporters of Pavel, who chanted anti-Babiš slogans. A minor scuffle ensued when a Babiš support grabbed a pro-Pavel sign from an elderly woman. 

A visit to nearby Jablonec nad Nisou saw an estimated 200 anti-Babiš spectators demonstrate against him in a shopping center, Seznam Zprávy writes.

Babiš plans to tour Brno and Hradec Králové next week with the election second round seven days away.

POLITICS President pardons Jana Nečasová 10 years after spy scandal

President Miloš Zeman has pardoned Jana Nečasová, the wife of former Prime Minister Petr Nečas and an ex-government aide, for her role in illegally spying on Nečas’s then-wife, Radka Nečasová.

A Czech court in 2017 found Jana Nečasová guilty of misusing military intelligence to spy on Nečas’s former partner. 

The issue led to the collapse of the government in June 2013 – the ex-prime minister, who was charged with perjury in 2020, defends his current wife. Jana Nečasová was sentenced to three years in prison, with a five-year suspended sentence, in March 2019.

WEATHER Snow to hit most of Czechia Saturday

According to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, up to 15 centimeters of snow could fall in areas of the country on Saturday night as Czechia braces for a freezing weekend. Snowfall is expected in almost the country whole (excluding the Karlovy Vary area) on Saturday.

In Prague, temperatures are forecast to hover around minus 3 degrees Celsius Saturday morning, not rising above freezing for the whole day. Sunday’s weather in the capital will be similar to that of Saturday, albeit marginally warmer. Periodic snow showers are expected on both Saturday and Sunday in the capital.

The north of the country will see the highest amount of snow, with temperatures around the Krkonoše Mountains forecast to minus eight degrees Celsius on Saturday.

ELECTION 2023 More than eight in 10 plan to vote in presidential election

According to a survey released by the Median polling agency to iRozhlas, about 82 percent of all eligible Czech adults intend to vote in the second round of the country’s presidential election, which takes place on Jan. 27 and 28.

The first round saw record-high turnout for presidential elections in an independent Czech Republic, with 68 percent going to the polls.

Median found that the 18-29 age group was the demographic that expressed the highest interest in voting next weekend. Over 85 percent of people who voted for Danuše Nerudová, who finished third in the election, intend to vote.

POLITICS Czech PM declines president's persecution-absolving request

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala has rejected President Miloš Zeman’s request to sign an agreement that would prevent two potential prosecutions, Deník N writes today.

One case pertains to the prohibited shredding of confidential information relating to the 2014 explosions of ammunition factories that occurred in Vrbětice, in which Russia is accused of playing a role.

The second refers to an investigation that a counterintelligence officer of Czechia’s Security Information Service had been leaking secret information regarding the wiretapping of the president’s associates.

Fiala refused to comment on the issue, simply saying “thank you for understanding” when asked by journalists about the matter.

SPORT Czech tennis youngster causes big upset

Czechia’s number-one-ranked tennis player Jiří Lehečka has caused an upset at the Australian Open major tournament, beating Brit and world number 12 Cameron Norrie in the third round.

Lehečka, who is just 21, beat Norrie in five sets, after trailing two sets to one. 

"The only thing I learned from this match was to never give up and fight for every ball," Lehečka said after winning the match, which lasted over three hours.

Lehečka has never reached beyond the first round of any Grand Slam tournament. He will play Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday, who is ranked seventh in the world.

LAW Top French lawyer – Babiš tax-evasion investigation is valid

A leading French lawyer has said that former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš does not need to be contacted by French authorities for an investigation into his alleged tax-evasion activities in France, reports.

In an interview with high-profile Czech criminal investigator Pavla Holcová, lawyer William Bourdon said Babiš’s claims that the French police must contact him if an investigation is to be made are “absolutely absurd.”

Babiš is currently under scrutiny for apparent tax evasion and money laundering following his acquisition of several properties in the south of France in the late 2000s.

SOCIETY Winding line of candles lit up in memory of Jan Palach

In commemoration of Jan Palach, a student who self-immolated in protest against the communist regime in 1969, people Thursday evening lit a 700-meter-long trail of candles in Zlín, ČT24 writes.

The event was prepared by creative center Živý Zlín, and 2023 marks the seventh year in which a special commemorative event is held to honor Palach’s death.

"The most important thing is that we can remind ourselves how important freedom is to us. That it is really necessary to protect it,” said one of the event organizers, Jana Kubáčová.

ELECTION 2023 Pavel greeted by thousands in Ostrava

Large crowds of people congregated in Ostrava, Moravia-Silesia, yesterday evening as presidential candidate and former army general Petr Pavel continue his tour of Czechia, writes.

A pub that Pavel entered reached full capacity within minutes. "I really appreciate it, I was expecting that there would be a few people here to have a beer with, but I really did not expect such a turnout,” said Pavel.

Pavel said that young people would play a great hand in helping the country in the coming years, and urged them to vote. Bookmakers currently have Pavel as favorite to win.

INCIDENT Pupil attacks classmate with knife at Czech school

A pupil in an elementary school in Česká Třebová, near Pardubice, injured a classmate with a knife Thursday, a spokesperson from Czech police told ČTK. The alleged aggressor was in the seventh grade, meaning he was about 12 or 13 years old.

Injuries are reported to be minor; the attacked boy was taken to hospital and released a few hours later. Police are investigating the incident. 

Earlier this week, police investigated a separate incident in a school in the south of the country, which saw a student threaten female classmates with a knife.

Jan. 19, 2023

ELECTION 2023 New anti-Pavel billboard appears in Prague

A new billboard by the campaign team of presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš appeared in Prague today, Seznam Zprávy writes. 

“The general does not believe in peace. Vote for peace. Vote for Babiš” were the words displayed.

This follows a previous message against fellow presidential candidate Petr Pavel, which said: “I’m a diplomat. Not a soldier.”

Babiš claims that Pavel would move Czechia closer to the Ukraine-Russia war; Pavel refutes this and mentioned earlier that Babiš’s actions were offensive to soldiers.

EDUCATION Mendel University loses degree accreditation for some programs

Mendel University has lost accreditation for some of its doctoral degree programs in economics, ČTK cites chairman of the National Accreditation Office for Higher Education Robert Plaga as saying today.

The university had been embroiled in controversy after the claims that the institution expedited doctoral degree programs in the past few years. Some students ostensibly completed doctorates within 30 months, when the normal process should take about 48 months – if not more.

Former presidential candidate Danuše Nerudová had been the rector at the university during the alleged illegal maladministration, but she denied any knowledge of it taking place.

HISTORY Crown jewels' display extended amid high interest

Huge public interest in viewing the Czech crown jewels has prompted the administrators of Prague Castle to prolong the exhibition of them, according to the official website.

The jewels’ display was intended to last until Saturday. However, the public will now be able to view them until Tuesday.

Entry is free and no bookings can be made, leading to particularly long queues.

iDnes reported earlier today that about 4,400 people came to view the historical artifacts on Wednesday. The queue was reported to stretch all the way to the Malostranská metro station.

ELECTION 2023 Czech Communist Party endorses Andrej Babiš

The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) has today declared its support for presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, according to a statement made today on the party website.

"If Babiš means evil, then his rival Petr Pavel is really hell for the Czech Republic and its citizens," the party wrote.

The KSCM made reference to the fact that Babiš as president would be better for people’s personal finances and average workers’ wages.

Babiš has communist links, having joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in 1980.

POLITICS Opposition fails to pass no-confidence vote against government

The opposition ANO movement has been unsuccessful in calling a no-confidence vote against the current coalition. All members of parliament (MPs) who are part of the ruling administration voted overwhelmingly in favor of not casting a no-confidence vote, iDnes writes.

Only the opposition ANO and Freedom and Direct Democracy parties voted in favor – because they are numerically far outnumbered in the Chamber of Deputies, the chance of any no-confidence vote being passed was minimal at best.

The current government accused ANO of calling the vote to support the presidential election of the movement’s founder, Andrej Babiš.

SPORT Several Czechs progress to third round of Australian Open

Two Czech women – Karolína Plíšková and Linda Fruhvirtová – have advanced to the third round of the Australian Open tennis tournament, one of the four major tennis competitions held annually.

Plíšková, a former world number one and currently ranked 31st globally, beat Kazakh Yulia Putintseva in straight sets. Teenage sensation Linda Fruhvirtová, who is 17 years old, claimed a win over Kimberly Birrell.

Barbora Krejčíková, who has previously won a Grand Slam and is ranked 23rd in the world, also won and will play Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina in the third round tomorrow.

The highest-ranked Czech woman, Petra Kvitová, lost in a second-round upset to Kalinina.

On the men’s side top-ranked Czech Jiří Lehečka will play Brit Cameron Norrie (the world number 12) in the third round after overcoming American Chris Eubanks. 

SOCIETY Police investigate fake texts impersonating Petr Pavel

The police are currently investigating a series of fake text messages sent under the name of presidential candidate Petr Pavel to people’s mobile phones and tablets. 

The contents of the text message ask people to “receive equipment for mobilization to fight in Ukraine,” ČTK writes.

Pavel said that “he was not surprised” someone was spreading lies – that he was encouraging Czech-involved military combat in Ukraine – propagated by fellow presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

People who have received the text messages are advised to contact the authorities by sending an email to, the police say.

Jan. 18, 2023

EMERGENCIES Fire incidents jump by 30 percent in Czechia

The number of reported fires that required emergency assistance increased by a sizable 30 percent year on year in 2022, ČTK cites general director of the Czech Fire and Rescue Service Vladimír Vlček as saying today.

Last year firefighters were sent to extinguish 20,790 fire-related incidents – about 78 every day. 

Above-average heat in July and August was said to be the main reason; the country’s largest forest fire in the Bohemian Switzerland region is an example of the problems caused by the weather.

UKRAINE Ukrainians get temporary visas officially extended

Ukrainian refugees fleeing their country from war will officially be able to extend their temporary protection visas in Czechia until March 2024. The bill was signed into law by President Miloš Zeman this afternoon, Deník N writes.

A total of almost 500,000 temporary protection visas have been issued to Ukrainians since February 2022. According to Minister of the Interior Vít Rakušan, there are around 300,000 of them in Czechia presently – concentrated in the Central Bohemia and Prague regions – and their number is not increasing rapidly.

ELECTION 2023 Pavel, Babiš face off alone in presidential debate

Presidential candidates Peter Pavel and Andrej Babiš today partook in their first head-to-head broadcast debate. It was held by the Dení media company, and both men joined via video call, Seznam Zprávy writes.

Babiš emphasized that he was a non-party candidate and claimed Pavel was essentially affiliated with the current government. Pavel called Babiš pro-Russain – the former prime minister responded by saying that he would do “everything” to end the war in Ukraine. 

On international affairs, Pavel said that Babiš did not understand how NATO works.

UKRAINE Czech Interior Minister responds to death of Ukrainian counterpart

Following a helicopter crash earlier today that killed the Ukrainian Minister of the Interior Denys Monastyrsky and members of his team, Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan has said that he “will personally express condolences” to his family, ČTK reports.

A total of 18 people were killed – the cause of the accident is not yet known, writes Politico.

Rakusan claimed that, because of his close relationship with Monastyrskiy, this is a highly personal matter for him. Prime Minister Petr Fiala also expressed his condolences on the tragic accident, which also killed three children.

POLITICS No-confidence vote in government under discussion today

A government discussion on a no-confidence vote in the current administration will continue today, following 12 hours of debate Tuesday as reported by ČT24.

The no-confidence motion was tabled by the opposition ANO movement. ANO chairperson Alena Schillerová cited the government’s refusal to discuss ANO-proposed policies in parliament as the reason for calling the vote.

Prime Minister Petr Fiala, however, says that it is a move to boost the campaign of ANO founder and presidential candidate, Andrej Babiš. The passing of a no-confidence vote, which would see the government vacating office, is almost certain to not occur, given that Fiala has a comfortable majority in the Chamber of Deputies.

WEATHER Heavy snowfall hits parts of Czechia, omits Prague

Heavy snowfall hit the Central Bohemia and Liberec regions overnight, leading to traffic disruption in the area, iDnes writes. Up to 10 centimeters of snow are said to have fallen in the areas.

Traffic disruption was reported on the main road routes between Liberec and Prague, and a fallen tree between Mladá Boleslav and Bakov nad Jizerou in Central Bohemia stopped rail operations.

Prague saw only minor snowfall – the majority of which melted by the morning. About 6 more centimeters of snow are expected in the north of Bohemia and the mountainous region today. Snow is expected across the majority of the country this weekend.

SOCIETY Famous Czech journalist, former Radio Free Europe head dies

Renowned Czech journalist and former president of the Czechoslovak department of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty media company Pavel Pecháček has died in the U.S, his family has informed journalists, writes. He was 82 years old.

After graduating from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Pecháček spent some years in 1970s West Germany working for Radio Free Europe.

He then moved to the U.S. to head the Czechoslovak broadcast of the Voice of America news network. In 1989, he returned to Radio Free Europe, heading the Czechoslovak division.

In 2015, then-Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka honored Pecháček with the Karel Kramář medal for the journalist’s work for democracy and freedom in Czechoslovakia and Czechia.

ELECTION 2023 Česká televize moves date of presidential debate to avoid clash

State television broadcaster Česká televize (ČT) has moved the date of its televised presidential-candidate debate from Jan. 26 to Jan. 22, owing to a clash with another broadcaster, Nova TV.

According to ČTK, former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš will not attend the ČT debate. He will, however, make an appearance on Nova TV, as well as a separate debate hosted by CNN Prima News on Jan. 25.

According to the broadcasters, it was “important for the public to see a joint debate,” rather than having different television channels “battle” with each other.

Jan. 17, 2023

SPORT Six Czech tennis players to feature in Australian Open Wednesday

Six Czech tennis players – four women and two men – will compete in the men’s and women’s singles tournaments at the Australian Open on Wednesday. Czech number one Petra Kvitová will face Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina for a place in the third round, and the second-ranked women’s player in Czechia, Barbora Krejčíková, will play Clara Burel from France. 

Other Czech women in action are unseeded Karolína Muchová, who will play 13th-seeded Danielle Collins from the U.S., and Markéta Vondroušová, whose match against Alison Riske was suspended today due to poor weather. The American leads 4:1 in the first set, writes ČTK.

On the men’s side, Czech number one Jiří Lehečka will play U.S. Chris Eubanks in the second round – both players and unseeded. Dalibor Svrčina will come against Japanese world number 33 Yoshihito Nishioka.

SOCIETY Number of housing-benefit claimants jumps 50 percent annually

A data release by the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications today found that 228,000 households in Czechia received a form of housing allowance last year – an increase of almost 50 percent year on year, as reported by iDnes.

The average household received CZK 4,780 in benefits and the state spent over CZK 8.5 billion on welfare assistance, about CZK 2 billion more than in 2021.

Tenants or property owners are entitled to state support if total rent exceeds 30 percent of total household income. More information on claiming welfare support for housing is listed on the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs website.

politics Danuše Nerudová agrees to share advertising space with Petr Pavel

Former university rector and presidential candidate Danuše Nerudová officially announced today that she would support former army general Petr Pavel by using her advertising-space resources or by making public appearances together, ČT24 writes.

"To defeat the evil that is here. Evil must not end at the [Prague] Castle," she said at a press conference. After having met yesterday, the pair agreed that they would cooperate together before the second round of the presidential election to take place Jan. 27 and 28.

Nerudová said that Pavel would score highly among the young generation, as he has a greater appeal.

ELECTION 2023 Right-wing SPD says it will back neither presidential candidate

The opposition, right-wing Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) today announced that it would not support any one candidate for the upcoming second round of the presidential election, iDnes reports. Some commentators thought that – given his right-wing and populist tendencies – the SPD would support former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

However, in a press conference today, party leader Tomio Okamura asserted “All voters are intelligent enough and it [the election] gives voters different options.” However, the SPD explicitly advised against voting for army general Petr Pavel, who has a communist past. 

Their chosen candidate Jaroslav Bašta, who was eliminated in the first round, announced that he would submit a blank ballot paper in the next round of the presidential election.

CRIME Czech police arrest internationally wanted Georgian

Czech police today announced that they have captured a Georgian man wanted by the U.S. authorities for serious theft, according to ČTK.

He is suspected of committing “very serious violent crimes” in the U.S. An international arrest warrant had been issued for him.

Police released a video of his arrest in an apartment in an undisclosed location.

“The detained man ranks among the respected criminal authorities on the Russian-language scene," spokesperson of National Center against Organized Crime Jaroslav Ibehej said earlier.

WEATHER Winter weather to return to Czechia tonight

Typical winter weather will hit Czechia tomorrow after weeks of unseasonably warm and mild weather. According to the forecast of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, temperatures will drop to freezing or colder across most of the country tonight, leading to snowfall in the vast majority of the country, including Prague. 

Temperatures will dip further on Thursday, with Prague expected to register minus 3 degrees Celsius in the morning, rising to minus 1 degree in the afternoon. Temperatures in the capital will not go above freezing until Saturday, when the warmest forecast temperature is set to be 1 degree Celsius. Snow is expected in the capital, and much of the country, on both Saturday and Sunday.

SOCIETY Babiš to visit crown jewels, but barred from church

Czech presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš will this morning visit the exhibition of the Czech crown jewels that opens today at Prague Castle, according to ČTK.

He had also declared that he wished to see the Infant Jesus of Prague (a small wooden statue depicting Jesus) in the Church of Our Lady Victorious and Saint Anthony of Padua located by Prague Castle.

However, the administrators of the church opted to close the church this morning to prevent Babiš from entering. They see the planned visit as a disingenuous part of his election campaign, which the church rector says is “offensive and fear-inducing.”

ENVIRONMENT Farm plans mass duck cull

Veterinarians in the village of Nouzov, Central Bohemia, today plan to cull 1,900 ducks on a farm that has been hit by the country’s H5N1 bird flu outbreak, ČTK reports.

Due to the spread of bird flu, the State Veterinary Administration has prohibited outdoor poultry breeding in the whole of the Czech Republic since Dec. 14 last year. A chicken farm in Pilsen recently had to cull almost 750,000 hens as a result of the outbreak.

Jan. 16, 2023

SPORT Top Czech tennis player through to Australian Open second round

Czech tennis player and Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitová progressed through to the second round of the Australian Open tournament in a 7:6, 6:2 win over Belgian Alison van Uytvanck. Currently ranked 15th in the world, the 32-year-old said: “for me, the first rounds at a Grand Slam are always very difficult, and today was no exception.” Last year, Kvitová crashed out in the first round. 

The Australian Open is one of the four major tennis tournaments held every year. The second-ranked Czech player, Barbora Krejčíková, also progressed to the second round.

ACCIDENT Small plane crashes in Czech field

A small sports plane crashed near the village of Mnichov, Karlovy Vary, injuring its two passengers, iDnes reports.

The exact model of the plane was an EV-97 Eurostar ultralight two-seater aircraft.

The accident happened at about 1 p.m. Both passengers were taken to hospital – injuries are light and not life-threatening. The cause of the accident is unknown.

The plane was found wedged in a small ditch after attempting to make an emergency landing in a field.

SOCIETY Czech politicians mark anniversary of Jan Palach death

Senior Czech politicians today commemorated the 54-year anniversary of student Jan Palach’s self-immolation. Palach, who was 20 at the time, was protesting against the invasion of Slovakia. He died three days after setting himself on fire.

Chamber of Deputies Speaker Markéta Pekarová Adamová, along with fellow deputy chairpersons, laid flowers and lit candles in Wenceslas Square, ČTK reports.

Adamová noted that Palach’s act “contributed to the fall of totalitarianism and to the current life of Czechs in freedom and democracy.”

ELECTION 2023 Czechia records highest presidential election turnout ever

The Czech Republic recorded its highest voter turnout in presidential-election history (since 1993) during the weekend’s first round of voting, iDnes reports.

Almost 70 percent of people voted either on Friday or Saturday. In the 2018 presidential election, turnout was at 62 percent.

Turnout was highest in Prague 6, Prague 12, Central Bohemia, and Pardubice. It was lowest in the Karlovy Vary and Ústí nad Labem regions, with slightly over 60 percent of people voting.

In public election history, this is the third highest turnout after the elections to the House of Representatives in 1996 and 1998, when 76.4 and 74 percent of voters respectively voted.

REAL ESTATE Prices of old apartments fall in Q4 2022

Data from real estate company shows that in much of the country prices of older apartments fell on a year-on-year basis in the fourth quarter of 2022, ČTK reports.

The largest declines were registered in Ostrava and Brno, with drops of 7 and 6 percent respectively. Prague registered almost-equal prices in the fourth quarter.

High marketing costs to sell the properties were cited as one of the reasons for the decline. This finding is in contrast with recent news that Prague apartment rental prices rose by around 20 percent in 2022.

ELECTION 2023 'I am not disappointed by election' – Nerudová

Presidential candidate Danuše Nerudová has told Seznam Zprávy that she “does not feel disappointed” by the results of the first round of the presidential election, and said that her and former army general Petr Pavel “will pull together."

Nerudová claimed almost 14 percent of the vote in the first round. This is less than had been anticipated; opinion polls had put her just a few percentage points behind the two frontrunners, Pavel and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who both received about 35 percent.

She plans to meet Pavel today to discuss how she can support his campaign. Nerudová also mentioned that she believes Babiš will lead a “dirty campaign” before the second round of the election, in two weeks.

WEATHER One-third of Czech weather stations register records

One-third of weather stations in Czechia recorded new (or equaled) records for the warmest Jan. 14 in the country's modern history, data from the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute shows.

A total of 44 out of 162 weather stations in Czechia registered record temperatures. České Budějovice in the south of the country registered the warmest temperature, with 12.2 degrees Celcius. 

Czechia has experienced unseasonably high temperatures in the past three weeks, as evidenced by temperatures of over 18 degrees Celsius recorded on New Year’s Eve.

The weather is forecast to become noticeably cooler from Wednesday this week.

ELECTION 2023 Babiš scores well in low-income towns

In the first round of the country’s presidential election, Former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš predominantly won in towns with higher rates of poverty and lower average levels of education, ČTK cites head of research firm PAQ Daniel Prokop as saying. 

In such towns, Babiš won 41 percent of the vote on average, and former army general Petr Pavel won 32 percent. Areas with a higher average income were more supportive of Pavel.

"The inhabitants of socially deprived regions tend to take part in elections less often, but this time 62 percent [of them] took part, which is unexpectedly many. It was mainly Babis, who managed to mobilize them, as he is a protest candidate,” PAQ Research summarized.

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