Ukraine crisis in Czechia: What's happening now

An updated twice-daily report on news surrounding the events in Ukraine and how they impact life in the Czech Republic. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 04.03.2022 10:26:00 (updated on 13.03.2022) Reading time: 32 minutes

Last update: Sunday, March 13, 14:15

The Latest Czech Republic to send additional military aid to Ukraine

The Czech Republic will provide Ukraine with additional military aid, Defence Minister Jana Černochová told Czech Television today. To date, the Czech Republic has sent weaponry, ammunition, and other military aid worth 725 million crowns to Ukraine, and additional deliveries will be for a similar amount, Černochová added.

Citing security reasons, the Defence Minister did not elaborate on the type of military aid it would be sending next, but it will come from a list of requests sent by the Ukrainian government.

"At the moment, we are looking for opportunities to purchase the military aid," Černochová said. "We are in a day-to-day contact and we are trying to meet the [Ukrainian] requests," she added.

Over the past two weeks, the Czech government has donated ammunition, firearms, anti-aircraft missiles, and other aid worth about 725 million crowns to Ukraine. Czech businesses have also sent military aid to Ukraine; they, too, declined to elaborate on the type of aid for security reasons.

What's next Czech Republic requests EU help to accommodate refugees

The Czech Republic has asked the European Union to provide 25 modular humanitarian bases that can shelter up to 50,000 refugees from Ukraine, Interior Minister Vít Rakušan told journalists on Saturday. Rakusan said this was a preventative measure to prepare for a crisis scenario.

"The request anticipates the provision of up to 25 humanitarian bases for 2,000 refugees each," Rakušan said. The capacities of the state are currently exhausted, and the Czech Republic is close to a state in which it will only be able to provide makeshift shelter to refugees, he added.

The state will use the accommodation in the modules as soon as capacities in gyms and other buildings are exhausted. The Czech Republic will be pushed to the limit in the next two to three weeks, Rakušan said.

The Czech Republic only has seven humanitarian bases, and each can provide shelter for up to 150 people. The Czech military is able to provide humanitarian bases for up to 400 people. The request is in preparation for another influx of refugees from Ukraine.

Prague refugee center processes 2,700 people on Saturday

The Prague assistance center for Ukrainian refugees provided aid to 2,766 people on Friday, about 100 fewer than on Friday, according to the data provided by Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib on social media. A total of 130 people were driven to other regions in order to handle their cases.

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Prague center for refugees has processed 27,857 people, Hrib said. The facility, located at Prague's Congress Centre, operates 24-hours and is in charge of both the capital city and the Central Bohemia Region. Hrib said that in total, 31,802 refugees had been registered in Prague.

Among the 2,800 people processed by the refugee center on Friday, 257 of them also requested accommodation. However, accommodation facilities in Prague are now limited due to the high influx of refugees. Due to this, a group of about 30 refugees were housed in the gym of an elementary school in Prague's Chodov district on Friday evening.

Flags of Ukraine, Tibet hoisted atop tallest Czech mountain

Flags of Ukraine and Tibet were hoisted atop Sněžka, the Czech Republic's tallest mountain, on Saturday. The event took place on the 63rd anniversary of the violent suppression of an 1959 Tibetan Uprising, the chairman of the Senate Group of Friends of Tibet, Přemysl Rabas, told journalists.

"This is an annual show of support for Tibet and nations that are denied the right to freedom. This is now urgent just because of Ukraine. More and more people are coming to Sněžka with flags," Rabas said.

"There are about 15 Tibetan and five Ukrainian flags. The atmosphere is excellent," said Pavel Klimes, a landscape ecologist and publisher of the magazine Veselý výlet (Merry Trip), which organizes the annual event.

Over 600 Czechs have requested to fight in Ukraine

The Czech Presidential Office has announced that more than 600 Czechs are interested in entering the Ukrainian military. Under Czech law, people who want to enter the armed forces of a foreign country must request permission to do so from the Ministry of Defence. The Presidential Office assists in coordinating these requests, and has received hundreds of them over the past two weeks.

"At present, the Czech Presidential Office has registered over 600 people for whom it will provide coordination when presenting requests to enter the armed forces of a country outside NATO, in this case Ukraine," the Presidential Office stated. Some of the requests have come from people who ask the Presidential Office whether Czech authorities will provide them with any equipment and arms, or whether they will be given some basic military training and transport.

Czech police warn Ukrainian refugees against scammers

As the number of Ukrainian refugees coming to the Czech Republic increases, local police have taken note of some alarming cases of scam artists attempting to rip them off. Fraudsters offer, for example, paid services for applying for residence or speeding up the visa process; police note that applying for residence in the Czech Republic is free, and it is illegal to pay to speed up the process.

Police have released a video in Ukrainian addressing these concerns, as well as a warning leaflet that can be downloaded from the police website. "You can't speed up administrative matters by paying anyone," the video notes. According to the Ministry of the Interior, more than 200,000 Ukrainian refugees have come to the Czech Republic; more than half of them are children, and four-fifths of the adults are women. The Ministry has granted around 120,000 visas to refugees to date.

Czech schools to increase capacities to accommodate Ukrainian refugees

Czech schools will be allowed to increase their capacities to accommodate child refugees, the lower house decided on Friday. Ukrainian teachers will be allowed to educate them until late August thanks to an exception that will allow them to teach without the knowledge of Czech language traditionally required from teachers.

Ukrainian children will be able to enroll into kindergarten and elementary schools between June 1 and July 15. Education Minister Petr Gazdik stressed that Czech parents do not have to worry about there being enough places for their children due to the Ukrainian refugees.

The Latest Czech parliament lower house passes legislation to help refugees

The Czech Chamber of Deputies has passed legislation intended to help Ukrainian refugees integrate into public life.

In accordance with an agreement of EU interior Ministers, the government wants to grant temporary protection to Ukrainian nationals or other Ukrainian permanent residents forced to leave the country due to the Russian invasion. The measure is expected to be approved by the Czech Senate on Wednesday.

If passed by both houses of parliament, the legislation will be in effect until the end of the year, also assisting displaced Ukrainians with integration into the Czech public healthcare system.

Meanwhile, a bill has also been passed by the Chamber of Deputies allowing Ukrainian refugees to obtain work in Czechia without needing a work permit. This legislation also allows for the distribution of CZK 5,000 to each refugee as a humanitarian benefit, which may be offered repeatedly to those who struggle to find work.

What's Next Prague offers higher payments to hotels to house refugees

Prague City Hall is desperately seeking out accommodation for Ukrainian refugees. It is currently offering the standard government rate of CZK 180 per adult per night to hotels to house refugees, but Mayor Zdeněk Hřib said it wants to negotiate a higher amount with the government.

Temporary accommodation facilities are now being used to meet demand. The first refugees arrived at a new accommodation facility at a gym in Prague today. Hotels are willing to look after refugees but want a higher amount than the government is offering: the Czech Hotels and Restaurants Association has offered 1,700 beds, but at a rate of CZK 500 per person per night.

4,000 beds from the Czech Hotels and Restaurants Association have already been offered for free, though association members claim some of these rooms remain vacant. Mayor Hřib said the city must currently find accommodation for 300 to 500 new people every day.

News of Note

Last update: Friday, March 11, 11:15

The Latest Czech weapons are already reaching Ukrainian fighters

Czech fundraising efforts to supply the Ukrainian armed forces with weapons to fight against Russian invasion are already resulting in deliveries to those on the front line, according to Ukrainian Ambassador to Prague Yevhen Perebyinis.

The Ukrainian Embassy has confirmed that over CZK 568 million has been raised for supplying military equipment to Ukraine. Speaking at a security conference in Prague, Perebyinis said most of the raised amount, around CZK 400 million, has already been spent on weapons and equipment from Czech manufacturers.

The Ukrainian Ambassador said the Czech Republic is among the world’s leaders in supplying Kyiv with weapons to fend off Russian invasion as well as donating humanitarian aid. The Czech government has separately donated ammunition, firearms, anti-aircraft missiles and health supplies worth over CZK 650 million to Ukraine.

“I will not specify the weapons, but I can assure you that our soldiers are already using them for the defense of Ukraine and Europe, including the defense of the Czech Republic.”

Yevhen Perebyinis, Ukrainian Ambassador to Prague.

What's Next Czechia focuses on its own defense spending

The Czech government is expected to ramp up military spending in the coming months as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Ministry of Defense has already concluded a CZK 1.18 billion deal with arms manufacturer Česká zbrojovka for thousands of new CZ BREN 2 assault rifles and CZ P-10 C pistols.

The Ministry described the new acquisition as “a direct response to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and the deteriorating security situation with uncertain developments.”

Events in Ukraine have demonstrated that traditional ground-based elements of warfare, such as individual arms as well as tanks and heavy artillery, remain of vital importance in the 21st century. The Czech Republic has been criticized for failing to renew its ground forces in times of economic growth. 

The most high-profile ongoing army program to bolster the country’s defensive capabilities is a purchase of 210 new infantry fighting vehicles. New impetus can be expected for the completion of this deal in the coming months.

News of Note

Eye on Prague Czechia could see 400,000 refugees, says government

The government estimates that over 400,000 people from Ukraine may arrive in the Czech Republic. Interior Minister Vít Rakušan gave the figure at a press conference yesterday, also announcing that around 200,000 refugees have so far entered the country.

Rakušan said that current estimates suggest 400,000 to 450,000 people will arrive from Ukraine. But he underlined that a maximum amount cannot yet be spoken of as the war is still developing.

Prague’s Assistance Center for refugees has so far registered over 25,000 people. Yesterday saw nearly 3,000 registrations, with 375 people applying for accommodation and 188 refugees being transported by bus to other centers throughout the country. 

The exhaustion of available accommodation facilities for refugees is forcing the government to set up emergency accommodation in gyms. The construction of temporary accommodation facilities for refugees is also being considered. Private accommodation providers are meanwhile being addressed further to see if more rooms can be found.

Last update: Thursday, March 10, 16:35

The LAtest Czech Army chief warns of potential attack on Europe

Aleš Opata, the Chief-of-Staff of the Czech armed forces, has warned that the next strategic shock facing Europe may be a massive military conflict. Opata was speaking at a security conference at Prague Castle.

Opata said the modernization of the Czech military has not been pursued at it should have been, although some new arms have been purchased in recent years. He mentioned, in particular, a long-running program for the purchase of infantry fighting vehicles as an important renewal initiative.

Opata warned that as the Czech Republic didn’t renew its armed forces capabilities during times of economic growth, sacrifices may have to be made to ensure adequate capabilities amid economic hardships over the coming years. But he urged against complacency in light of the recent events in Ukraine.

“Hoping that the enemy does not attack is a prelude to defeat.”

Aleš Opata, Czech armed forces Chief-of-Staff

What's Next Fiala to discuss further EU sanctions in France

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala is heading to France today to discuss the EU’s next steps against Russian aggression in Ukraine with other EU leaders. Before leaving for the summit, Fiala said it is vital to consider whether sanctions against Russia may be further tightened.

The most contentious area still up for discussion is cutting out Russian oil and gas from the European market. The U.S. and Great Britain have already imposed bans on Russian oil imports, but Europe is yet to follow suit. And some countries such as Hungary are very reluctant to cut Russia out of Europe’s energy market for fear of an energy catastrophe.

Fiala mentioned further sanctions on Russian involvement in the SWIFT international payment system and an EU-wide blockade of Russian ships.

EU leaders will also discuss granting Ukraine EU candidacy status, as requested by President Volodymyr Zelensky after Russia’s invasion. “On behalf of the Czech Republic, I would like to confirm that we support this step. Ukraine has shown not only that it wants to be in the EU, but that with its brave fighting, it undoubtedly deserves it.”

News of Note

Last update: Thursday, March 10, 11:30

The Latest Hundreds of Czechs submit applications to fight in Ukraine

The Czech Ministry of Defense already has 500 applications from Czech citizens wanting to fight for the Ukrainian armed forces against Russia. According to the Ministry, both men and women have submitted requests to head east to fight.

Further clarity is required, however, about the future facing those who decide to fight in Ukraine. The Armed Forces Act means they would currently face up to five years in jail for serving in a foreign army. The Czech Prime Minister and President have agreed that a special abolition of the usual prosecution can be guaranteed for all who go to fight; but granting individual approvals or collective consent is not possible.

As such, applications are piling up without being approved or processed. It’s thought Czechs who want to fight will therefore have to trust in the promise of impunity given by the Prime Minister and President. Constitutional lawyers warn that the pardon for fighting in Ukraine does not also mean a pardon for any illegal acts committed while in Ukraine.

“You’re heading to war; it’s not a game. You need to know why you want to go there. Do you really want to fight for Ukraine, or are you attracted by adventure? That’s the first point. Point number two is that people must realize that if they go, there is a real danger that they will die.”

Lumír Němec, former Military Police Special Operations Commander

What's Next Zeman urges increased military spending

Czech President Miloš Zeman has encouraged higher defense spending to meet NATO’s 2% of GDP threshold as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Zeman, who has previously been accused of pro-Russian sympathies, said the invasion tramples on international law, and warned of the possibility of a nuclear conflict.

“The world has come a step closer to its end on the imaginary Doomsday Clock.”

Czech President Miloš Zeman

“I by no means want to spread fear, but all I know is that the conflict in Ukraine is taking place under a mutual nuclear threat of apocalyptic dimensions and we can only rely on sound reasoning and self-preservation instincts in some actors,” the President continued.

“Every morning, we should be grateful for not having a war in our country and that our state is a NATO and EU member,” Zeman added.

News of Note

Eye on Prague: 200,000 refugees have reached Czechia, says Minister

Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan has announced that mobile network data suggests 200,000 Ukrainian refugees have already arrived in the Czech Republic. Almost 70,000 people have so far registered with the immigration police, with nearly 7,000 registering on Wednesday alone.

Four-fifths of adult arrivals are women, while children make up 55 percent of all refugees, Rakušan said. By midnight last night, the Interior Ministry had granted 108,114 special visas for refugees, including for 100 foreigners who fled the conflict in Ukraine but are not Ukrainian nationals.

As of today, the three-day deadline for refugees registering with the Czech authorities has been extended to 30 days. It’s thought over 2 million people have so far fled Ukraine, with around 1.3 million going to Poland, 140,000 heading to Slovakia, 210,000 going to Hungary and 510,000 entering Romania, according to data from the Frontex EU border agency.

Last update: Wednesday, March 9, 17:00

The Latest Slovak authorities warn of looming humanitarian disaster

Local authorities in Košice, Slovakia's second largest city, are warning of a looming humanitarian disaster as the city struggles to cope with a massive influx of Ukrainian refugees. The Slovak government quickly moved to downplay the comments from the local Mayor, who they said is spreading panic about the situation.

Refugees travelling by bus and as individual travellers are flooding Košice, which is situated just under 100 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. For most, the town is a stopover destination on their journey to stay with relatives and friends. But still, the sheer number of people arriving is, according to the Mayor, threatening a humanitarian catastrophe.

"Every day, dozens of buses and hundreds of people traveling individually come to Košice from Ukraine. We want to look after these people, but with its capacity, the town can no longer control the situation."

Košice Mayor Jaroslav Poláček

What's Next Czechs face criticism for reluctance to take in Ukrainians

Although the Czech Republic is supporting Ukrainians after their country's invasion by Russia, most Czechs would not accept refugees into their homes, according to a poll conducted by the European National Panels with cooperation from Nielsen Admosphere, NMS Market Research and the STEM/MARK agency. In Poland, almost every other person is willing to take a refugee into their home, but in Czechia the figure is less than 30 percent.

On the other hand, over 85 percent of respondents believe Czechia as a nation should accept refugees from Ukraine. And around 80 percent would be happy for Ukrainians to be relocated to their local area. Out of Central European countries examined in the poll, only the Czech Republic and Hungary showed a marked reluctance to actually take Ukrainians in to their own homes.

News of Note

Last update: Wednesday, March 9, 11:45

The Latest Czech and Slovak armed forces build refugee camp

Czech and Slovak soldiers have started construction work for a refugee camp in northern Slovakia, providing temporary shelter for up to 400 people at a time. The shelter should be ready to start admitting Ukrainian refugees this weekend, and is expected to operate for 30 days.

The facility will contain 20 heated tents with sanitary facilities and catering areas. Most of the people making use of the camp will be Ukrainian mothers and their children; it will provide a place for the vulnerable to stay until permanent accommodation for them is secured.

Fifteen Czech soldiers will remain in Slovakia after the camp is built to assist its operations, according to the Defense Ministry. Around 80 Czech police are meanwhile assisting with the registration of refugees in Slovakia.

“This is another example of excellent cooperation with the Czech Republic and its military. Solidarity and aid is what people fleeing Putin’s aggression in fear for their lives need.”

Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Naď

What's Next Czechia looks to ease integration of Ukrainians

The Czech government is exploring options to make it easier for Ukrainians to be integrated into working Czech life. The government is discussing the possibility of allowing Ukrainian refugees to obtain employment in Czechia without gaining a work permit, usually a requirement for non-EU foreigners.

Meanwhile, it’s being proposed that the Czech education system could become a significant employer of qualified and unqualified Ukrainian workers. The government is looking at providing an exemption from qualification requirements for Ukrainian school staff candidates, allowing schools to employ them more quickly and easily in non-teaching roles.

The Czech Education Ministry has meanwhile created a manual for arriving Ukrainians with recommended steps for the integration of their children into the Czech school system, released on the Ministry’s website in Czech and Ukrainian.

News of note

Eye on Prague: People In Need launches emergency phone line in Ukrainian

Czech charity People In Need has launched an emergency phone line in Ukrainian for refugees in need in Czechia. The organization has been spearheading fundraising efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees, raising some CZK 1.3 billion since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

The new phone line for Ukrainians is available at 770 600 800, and will be available from 09:00 to 17:00 from Monday to Friday. Nine Ukrainians will operate the line providing assistance and advice.

Two million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. Most, around 1.2 million, have gone to Poland, but over 100,000 have already arrived in Czechia.

Last update: Tuesday, March 8, 16:00 p.m.

The latest Czechia looks to ease Ukrainian refugee requirements

The Czech government is considering steps to make it easier for Ukrainian refugees to be integrated into Czech society. The time limit within which refugees must register their presence in the country with the authorities will be extended from three days to 30 days, while the government is also considering allowing refugees to work in Czechia without a work permit.

The changes being proposed are aimed at easing the administrative burden of the refugee crisis. Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said today that the Czech regions have the capacity to provide basic needs to up to 250,000 refugees, but the wave is expected to be larger.

Allowing refugees to gain employment without work permits, while accelerating recognition of their education and previous work qualifications, is believed to be necessary to prevent their exploitation as cheap labor. The government is proposing to give refugees the same working status as immigrants with a permanent residence permit.

“We have to protect Ukrainian refugees from falling hostage to labor agencies and being misused as cheap labor… with half of their salary seized by mafia.”

Josef Středula, CMKOS trade union leader

What's Next Experts warn of coming ‘disillusion’ phase

It’s being predicted that Czech society will soon enter a phase of disillusionment around the war in Ukraine. Jan Vevera, an expert in the psychology of epidemics and disasters, describes this phase as natural when coping with any major disaster.

Symptomatic of this phase, according to Vevera, is the growing tendency of people to question the need to help Ukrainian refugees, for instance because they have mobile phones, clean clothes or arrived by car.

Vevera described the trajectory of responses to any disaster as starting with a preparation phase, followed by a “direct impact” phase, followed by a “heroic” phase, followed by a phase of growing disillusionment as the crisis continues despite the best efforts of the population.

News of note

Last update: Tuesday, March 8, 12:00 p.m.

The latest Fiala to participate in V4 talks on Russia in Britain with Boris Johnson

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala is visiting Great Britain today to hold talks on the war in Ukraine with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other leaders in the Visegrád Four alliance. Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger, Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki, and Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán will all be present in London.

The primary focus of the discussions will be European security and the joint action of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungry in managing the refugee crisis, cyber security, and other impacts of the Russia-Ukraine conflict including rising energy and fuel prices. The visit is Fiala’s third foreign trip as Prime Minister, after visits to Bratislava and Brussels in recent weeks.

Fiala will likely continue to call for tougher sanctions on Russia during his trip to the UK. Talks will also center on the Ukrainian refugee crisis in the V4 states: Fiala yesterday criticized Russia’s stance on allowing refugees to flee only to Russia.

“I consider the news that the Russian army will not allow civilians to leave other than to the Russian Federation is completely unacceptable. It is another immoral and reprehensible act on the part of Russia.”

Petr Fiala, Czech Prime Minister

What's next? Czech government in discussions over looming economic crisis

The war is already having a severe effect on the domestic economy, with fuel and energy prices at record highs. Price increases for everyday food products are also expected due to the importance of the Ukrainian agriculture industry to the European food market.

Fiala today said that the government will address the sharp rise in fuel prices in a sensible and judicious way. He warned against calls for the capping of fuel prices, suggesting such steps would only store up problems for further down the road.

“We must not only do something quickly with prices but also consider the implications of our decision,” said Fiala. More details of the government's plan are set to emerge on Wednesday. Some lawmakers are calling on Czechia to plan in advance for insufficient supplies of food with grain exports possibly limited.

News of note

Eye on Prague: Ukrainian refugee center re-opens as fundraising breaks records

The Assistance Center for Ukrainian refugees in Prague re-opened for new applicants today at 05:45. Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib announced the resumption of operations on Twitter today. Operations had to be temporarily suspended yesterday afternoon as a result of overcrowding.

Refugees were subsequently transported out of Prague to refugee centers in the Czech regions. Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Prague Assistance Center has handled over 15,000 people.

It’s estimated that a total of over 100,000 refugees have arrived in Czechia since the war began. The Czech Republic has seen an outpouring of support via humanitarian aid fundraising programs. Corporations have also participated in the fundraising effort; American company IBM has chosen a fund operated by Czech charity People In Need as one of two recipients for a contribution of $250,000 to help refugees.

Last update: Monday, March 7, 15:30 p.m.

The Latest Refugee Center in Prague closes applications after overcrowding

The Ukrainian refugee center in the Prague Congress Center has closed applications for assistance for a 24-hour period due to overcrowding, according to Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib. The Mayor said he will try to negotiate assistance for the facility from the armed forces in cooperation with Interior Minister Vít Rakušan.

Another problem, according to Hřib, is limited capacity for refugee accommodation in Prague.

"We are trying to secure some additional capacity from private offers which have been made, but we are lacking government guidelines."

Zdeněk Hřib, Prague Mayor

Hřib is also negotiating an increase in bed capacity at Prague’s Main Railway Station, mostly for Ukrainians transiting through Prague on their way to Germany.

What's next? Czech regions step in after Prague refugee overcrowding

The overcrowding of the Prague Assistance Center for Ukrainian refugees means those in need are now being redirected to less-busy regional assistance centers. The Fire and Rescue Service of the Czech Republic announced the move this afternoon. Four buses carrying refugees were organized by the fire service today; two headed to South Bohemia, on to Kutná Hora, and one to Liberec.

News of note

Last update: Monday, March 7, 11:30 a.m.

The latest Czech PM Petr Fiala says Putin will not use nuclear weapons

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not follow through on his threat to use nuclear weapons and that such threats are made with the intention of dividing democratic countries. Fiala said that Putin “knows that it would be the end for Russia” if he deployed nuclear weapons.

Putin put Russia’s nuclear arsenal on high alert a week ago, but Fiala said: “there is no danger that he could really use it.” The Czech Prime Minister argued that the only solution is a determined and clear stance from the West against Russian expansionism. He also acknowledged the adverse effect that the war will have on the Czech economy and living standards.

"The only things that will protect us are strength, and the determination to use that strength. This is what people like Vladimir Putin understand."

Petr Fiala, Czech Prime Minister

European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová meanwhile said Russia's ultimate goal is to integrate Ukraine into Russia. In a debate on Czech Television, the EC Vice President also predicted that up to eight million refugees will arrive in the EU from Ukraine. "Putin is fulfilling his long-term goal of occupying Ukraine and his dream that Ukraine should belong to Russia; that the Ukrainian nation has no right to an independent existence," Jourová said.

Czech presidential candidate and former NATO military committee chief Petr Pavel responded that for Russia to retain at least partial control of Ukraine, it would need to undertake a massive occupation operation due to the furious resistance of the Ukrainian people. Pavel argued that Putin originally hoped to install a puppet regime in the early days of the conflict; this goal has already failed. He also suggested that Russia is bluffing in its threats to the West, saying Moscow "is not in a position to launch another big war and sustain it."

What’s next? The Czech Republic will ask for EU financial aid

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský announced that the Czech government will ask the EU for financial assistance for dealing with the influx of Ukrainian refugees. Since the outbreak of war, over 1.5 million people have fled to neighboring countries, with the majority going to Poland. But the number arriving in Czechia increased significantly over the weekend, and Interior Minister Vít Rakušan has estimated that the total has now crossed the 100,000 mark. Most of the arrivals are women, children, and elderly people.

The Czech request for EU financial aid comes as concerns grow about the effect of the war on the domestic economy. The government will this week discuss the possibility of introducing a price cap for fuels to keep a lid on spiraling prices. Food price increases are also expected given the importance of the Ukrainian agriculture industry to European food supplies. A meeting of EU leaders at the end of the week will also discuss the next steps to limit the economic impact of the war, with VAT adjustments and the use of money from sales of CO2 emissions allowances being considered.

News of note

Eye on Prague: Protesters call for establishment of humanitarian no-fly zone

A rally in Prague’s Old Town Square on Sunday saw protesters call for a “humanitarian no-fly zone” over Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for a no-fly zone to be imposed by NATO in recent days, though NATO has said this is not possible because it would put the defense alliance at war with Russia. Vladimir Putin has also said that he would consider the establishment of a no-fly zone a declaration of war.

On the other hand, some analysts argue that the imposition of limited no-fly zones over humanitarian corridors in Western Ukraine would be a viable solution. This is being urged as a minimum necessary step by Ukrainian diplomats abroad, including Ambassador to the Czech Republic Yevhen Perebyinis, who spoke at Sunday’s rally.

The humanitarian aid effort in the Czech Republic is meanwhile picking up speed. The number of refugees registering with the authorities picked up significantly at the weekend. Nearly 12,000 special visas were issued on Sunday alone, according to the Interior Ministry; this number included new arrivals as well as Ukrainians already in the country who need an extension allowing them to remain.

At the Prague Center for Ukrainian Refugees at the Congress Center in Vyšehrad, 11,851 refugees have been so far processed since the beginning of the assistance operation, according to the city of Prague.

Last update: Sunday, March 6, 11:30 a.m.

Street artists rename Prague's Ruská street in support of Ukraine

Creative street artists in Prague have renamed the Czech capital's Ruská street, which runs through Vršovice, to show support for Ukraine. Signs running down the entire length of the street now bear the name "Ruská válečná lodi, jdi do prdele!" ("Russian warship, go **** yourself"), after the statement made by a Ukrainian border guard on Snake Island. The street signs appear genuine, but are actually a sticker matching the style of Prague's street signs placed over the original.

While the 13 guards at Snake Island were initially reported to be dead following a Russian attack, the Ukrainian Navy has since stated that the guards have been taken prisoner by Russian forces. The statement made by one of the guards, captured on audio recording, has since become a rallying cry for Ukrainian forces.

Prague Center for Refugees processes 3,000 people on Saturday

The Prague Center for Ukrainian Refugees at the Congress Center in Vyšehrad continues to process a large number of people. An estimated 3,000 refugees were seen on Saturday after 2,600 people on Friday in its first day of operation, according to Prague firefighters who are assisting at the scene. To date, 8,567 Ukrainian refugees have been processed by Prague refugee centers.

24-hour centers in Hradec Králové, Kutná Hora, Mladá Boleslav, Liberec, Olomouc and Zlín each processed hundreds of Ukrainian refugees yesterday, and an additional center will be established in Příbram. According to the Czech Ministry of the Interior, more than 42,000 Ukrainian refugees have been registered by Foreign Police.

Radio Free Europe suspends operations in Russia

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which has its headquarters in Prague, has announced that it is suspending its operations in Russia following increased pressure by Russian authorities. On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that threatens journalists who contradict the Kremlin's official narrative on the war in Ukraine with up to 15 years in prison.

“It is with the deepest regret that I announce the suspension of our physical operations in Moscow today," remarked RFE/RL President & CEO Jamie Fly in a released statement. "This is not a decision that RFE/RL has taken of its own accord, but one that has been forced upon us by the Putin regime’s assault on the truth. Following years of threats, intimidation and harassment of our journalists, the Kremlin, desperate to prevent Russian citizens from knowing the truth about its illegal war in Ukraine, is now branding honest journalists as traitors to the Russian state."

Prague's Center for Ukrainian Refugees sees huge uptick in visitors

The Prague Center for Ukrainian Refugees at the Congress Center in Vyšehrad saw 2,600 refugees by midnight last night, and provided accommodation for 390 of them. The number of refugees processed at the center was huge even at night, said Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib said on Twitter. He added that anyone who knows Ukrainian is welcome to come this weekend to help with interpretation.

The center started operating on Friday morning, moving from Prague's Municipal Library to a much larger location. The center features 70 counters to help Ukrainian refugees process documents and provide basic assistance. Refugees can also be vaccinated against Covid-19 at the Congress Center.

The refugee center has a rest area and three children's corners for families. Meals are provided by Prague's Food Bank and material assistance by People in Need. In addition to Ministry of the Interior officials and police officers, employees of the health insurance companies, the Czech Red Cross, interpreters, and psychologists also staff the center.

Over 100,000 refugees have entered Slovakia since start of invasion

More than 100,000 people have entered Slovakia from Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, according to Slovak police headquarters spokesperson Michal Slivka. The number of refugees that have entered Slovakia totals 101,529 as of Saturday morning. Most of the refugees do not stay in Slovakia, but continue to relatives in other European countries, including the Czech Republic.

Tens of thousands show support for Ukraine at Prague's Wenceslas Square

Prague's Wenceslas Square was once again filled by thousands of people on Friday evening during a peaceful event to show support for Ukraine organized by the Millions of Moments for Democracy group. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to the crowd live via digital transmission, and urged people of European countries to take Russia's aggression against Ukraine seriously.

"If we win, and I am sure we will win, it will be a victory for the whole democratic world, it will be a victory for freedom, a victory for light over darkness, for freedom over slavery," Zelenskyy said. His speech was followed by a storm of applause. Zelenskyy spoke to crowds of people in Frankfurt, Paris, Bratislava, Lyon, Tbilisi, Vilnius, Vienna, and elsewhere, and specifically named Prague in his comments.

"You are all Ukrainians today and I thank you for that," he said.

The latest: Interior Minister says fighting in Ukraine poses no risk to Czechia

As the world reacts to the Russian attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southeast Ukraine, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský tweeted Friday morning his response to the Russian shelling of the power plant, the largest of its kind in Europe. Lipavský called the attack meaningless, irresponsible, and dangerous and called for Russian aggression to stop immediately.

Following the Russian attack, a fire broke out in a training building but has been already extinguished. The BBC writes that authorities have said the facility is secure and radiation levels are normal. The act is at variance with all norms of international law, the Czech Foreign Ministry wrote today, calling on the UN Security Council to act. PM Petr Fiala said the dangerous attack is proof that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not respect any rules or agreements.

Following a meeting of the Central Crisis Staff later on Friday, Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said the ongoing war in Ukraine doesn't pose an increased security risk to the Czech Republic and the country remains in a position to help. A Czech nuclear safety officer attended the meeting to confirm there was no radioactive leak at the Zaporizhzhia plant and that the radiation alert system is operating correctly. US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm tweeted and local authorities expressed a similar view, that no elevated radiation readings were registered near the facility.

"I am shocked by the meaningless, irresponsible, and dangerous attack at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. A radiation leak from the plant could jeopardize the whole of Europe."

-Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský

News of note

Up next: Increased military spending

Czech Defense Minister Jana Černochová submitted a new budget on Friday that would give the defense ministry CZK 1 billion more from the budget reserve. The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Czech Parliament, will discuss the 2022 budget in its second reading today. Černochová's proposal comes in reaction to the significant change in the security situation and the crucial impact of the Russian aggression in Ukraine on the Czech Republic, she said. At today's lower house session, lawmakers will discuss further humanitarian aid for refugees from Ukraine. On Thursday, PM Petr Fiala did not rule out that the government would need to present an amended budget later this year that takes into account the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Eye on Prague: Large refugee registration zone opens at Congress Centre

  • Refugee assistance: On Friday afternoon, Prague and the Central Bohemian Region relocated its Regional Assistance Center for Ukraine from the Municipal Library in Old Town to the Congress Center, located next to the Vyšehrad metro station. The center offers increased capacity with 70 counters and will operate 24 hours a day. Additional services include a relaxation area and children's corners. The assistance center on Mariánské náměstí, in operation since Tuesday, had become the busiest facility in the whole country seeing 200 people daily.
  • Aid to Ukraine: Czech Railways sent another transport of humanitarian to Čop yesterday, reporting that "all 10 cars are literally bursting at the seams." ČD reports that volunteers can bring additional donations to their depositories, more than 60 stations throughout the country. Donations can also be made at Prague's main station.
  • Shelter and accommodation: It was also reported yesterday that citizens of Ukraine fleeing conflict in their home country can stay in Prague hotels without paying fees to the city authorities by proving their identity with a travel document. The initiative from Prague City Hall will run throughout this month, complementing independent moves from hotels to offer free accommodation for those fleeing the war. Waiving the CZK 50 per night fee for Ukrainians was described by city authorities as a “symbolic gesture based on the obvious assumption that the city will not capitalize on the suffering of others.”

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