Czechia has sent CZK 3 billion in military aid to Ukraine so far

Plus: Fiala affirms Czech-Polish alliance amid war in Ukraine, and Czechia described as a Nazi-supporting nation on Russian state TV.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 25.04.2022 11:58:00 (updated on 30.04.2022) Reading time: 14 minutes

April 30, 2022

Employment Czech trade unions call for Ukrainian workers to join them

Czech trade unions will offer membership to workers from Ukraine, Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions leader Josef Středula told local journalists on Friday. The Unions have also called on the Czech Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to monitor the employment of refugees, and translate work legislation into Ukrainian for their benefit.

"We ask that no difference be made between Czech, Ukrainian, and other employees," Středula stated. "We will of course also try to offer them membership in trade unions. But the priority is that Ukrainian workers have dignified access to jobs."

April 29, 2022

AID Czechia has supplied Ukraine with CZK 3 billion of military aid

The Czech Republic has so far provided military assistance to Ukraine with a total value of almost CZK 3 billion, according to a Ministry of Defense spokesperson. The Ministry of Defense does not disclose the details of specific deliveries for security reasons. The spokesperson also confirmed that negotiations are underway with Germany to set up a model of cooperation for providing military aid to Ukraine; Germany is reported to have offered Czechia military materials to compensate for the weapons which Prague sends to the Ukrainian army.

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International Relations Czech-Polish alliance grows with Fiala's Warsaw visit

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala has broken ranks with Brussels to express his government's belief that Polish "rule of law" concerns should be set to one side amid war in Ukraine. Fiala said that in the current situation, other issues are more important than the long-running dispute between Poland and the EU over judicial independence and media pluralism. Fiala described Poland as an exemplary defender of European values amid Russian aggression.

Ahead of a trip to Warsaw today, Fiala said he believes rule-of-law concerns should be put aside until calmer times. "They're definitely in the background right now," he said. Poland has taken in the large majority of refugees from Ukraine and is one of the EU nations most committed to combating Russian aggression.

Russia Czechia described as Nazi-supporting country on Russian TV

A leading Russian TV moderator has described Czechia's support for Ukraine as a parallel with alleged Nazi-support during WWII. Vladimir Solovyov said that Russia is fighting a "continuation of WWII" and singled out the Czech Republic, saying that "just as they repaired and shipped heavy military equipment for Nazi Germany, they are now doing it for Ukraine." Solovyov is a famous face on Russian state media and has suffered as a result of EU sanctions: the moderator has lost three Italian properties worth a total of CZK 195 million.

Energy Czechia to store gas ahead of winter heating season

Czech Minister of Industry and Trade Jozef Síkela announced yesterday that gas storage facilities in the Czech Republic will be filled up to at least 80 percent capacity before the next heating season. Until now, tanks were only filled to at least 30 percent capacity before winter. The precautionary step comes after Russia abruptly halted gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria this week. Earlier, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said Czechia currently has oil reserves for three months, gas reserves for two summer months, and nuclear fuel reserves for two to three years.

Sanctions Czechia furious at lack of cooperation from Cyprus in sanctions

The Czech Financial Analytical Office, tasked with freezing the assets of Russian oligarchs, has complained about the reluctance of the authorities in Cyprus to provide information on the owners of companies. The office claims this reluctance is leading to failure to identify and punish Russian oligarchs with links to the Putin regime. The head of the Financial Analytical Office told the Senate earlier this week that the trail of suspicious business assets often leads to Cyprus but a lack of local cooperation leads to a dead end. Until last year, Cyprus allowed completely secret ownership of companies with no official register of beneficial owners, making the island a haven for oligarchs.

April 28, 2022

Refugees Center for Ukrainian children opens in Prague

A community center has opened for Ukrainian mothers and children at Roztyly, in Prague 11. The center was set up in cooperation with the Help Ukraine Endowment Fund and local authorities, and offers babysitting capacities for hundreds of children of all ages. It also offers social and leisure activities as well as educational seminars. The center consists of four classrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen. It's located about a kilometer away from the Roztyly metro station on the "C" line. Those visiting the center can also use an adjacent green space as a forest park. It's hoped the children's center will enable Ukrainian mothers to carry out necessary administrative tasks or look for work.

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan praised the establishment of the children's center, noting that "almost half of all incomers are children." Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib meanwhile said similar centers should be set up elsewhere in the city. The Chairman of the Help Ukraine Endowment Fund said other centers are planned, but it needs more financial support from the state to make them reality.

ENergy European Unity fragments on Russian gas payments

Shortly after the cessation of Russian gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria was confirmed by Russian energy provider Gazprom yesterday, it emerged that various EU countries have already caved in to Russia's demands regarding gas payments. Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó confirmed today that as Hungary has no alternatives to Russian gas, it will pay for gas in rubles as demanded by Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, one of Germany's largest energy buyers said it has set up an account with Gazprombank to comply with Russia's demands. Bloomberg claimed Italian energy giant Eni has also decided to comply with the rubles-for-gas scheme by opening accounts with Gazprombank, while the Financial Times said Austrian company OMV is set to open ruble accounts to facilitate gas purchases.

Economy World Bank warns of consumer price shock

The World Bank has warned that Russia's invasion of Ukraine will cause the biggest commodity shock in half a century. In an analysis published this week, the institution warned that the prices of natural gas, wheat, cotton and other basic commodities are likely to remain extremely high for the next two years.

April 27, 2022

Aid MPs approve tax benefits for supporting Ukraine

Czech MPs this morning approved tax benefits for those providing assistance to Ukraine amid its invasion by Russia. Amendments proposed by the government include making donations to Ukraine's defense effort or to Ukrainian NGOs tax-deductible. The change will also maintain a higher limit for individuals and companies when deducting charitable contributions from their income tax base. The proposal gained cross-party support and will now be considered by the upper house of parliament.

Energy Fiala condemns halt in Russian gas supplies to Poland

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala has described Russia's decision to halt gas supplies to Poland as an escalation of the tensions between Russia and the West. Fiala said that in refusing to supply Poland with gas, Russia is violating its contracts. In a tweet responding to the suspension of Gazprom supplies to Poland, Fiala said the development highlights the need to cut out Russian energy. The halt in Russian gas supplies to Poland is not expected to have any noticeable impact on Czechia.

Politics Slovak President Čaputová makes direct appeal to Russian soldiers

Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová yesterday released a video in which she directly addressed Russian soldiers and their commanders, calling on them to stop the fighting Ukraine. Speaking in Russian, Čaputová also condemned the war crimes apparently committed by Russian troops in Ukraine. "You justify your invasion by referring to 'liberation'. How did you intend to 'liberate' Tetiana from Irpin, who was killed by a Russian grenade along with her two children? Or Olena from Hostomel, who was raped by one of you in a car?" Čaputová asked. She asked why such acts are being committed, and said that "with each new day, you extend the crowd of wounded souls and bodies of women, children and other innocent people. If you still feel the remnants of humanity within you, show it and stop this dreadful war."

Refugees Controversy grows over Czech treatment of Romani refugees

The Czech Republic has gained a negative reputation among Romani refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, according to Czech news server Idnes.cz. According to a report, many Romani people fleeing Ukraine are intentionally avoiding the Czech Republic due to anti-Roma sentiment in the country. An activist from the Konexe association told the server that "in the Czech Republic, the Roma have been in a bad situation for a long time, it is impossible for them to find a normal apartment in a normal location at a normal price. So we explain to Roma people from Ukraine that they should go to another country without ethnic discrimination and systematic racism."

The report comes shortly after claims refugee tents being used to house Romani refugees in Prague were taken down after it was suggested problems had been reported at the site. It was also said that the tents housing Romani refugees provided sub-standard conditions. Yesterday, Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said three pieces of real estate owned by the state have been chosen as suitable to accommodate Romani refugees. It's estimated that around 300 people could be housed in these properties, which will be managed by Roma NGOs.

Society Opposition criticizes lack of long-term plan for the refugee crisis

The Czech opposition led by Andrej Babiš has criticized the government's lack of information about the current state of the refugee crisis and its refusal to discuss a strategy for resolving the crisis. Babiš's ANO party claimed mayors and local governors have no idea how many Ukrainian refugees are currently residing in their locality. The party also demanded that the Czech parliament discuss a long-term strategy for the refugee crisis; although such a discussion is on the agenda, there is not yet a specific date for its discussion.

April 26, 2022

War crimes Czech coalition member to propose labeling Ukraine war 'genocide

The KDU-ČSL party, a minor member of the Czech Republic's ruling coalition, will propose to coalition partners, and later to the entire lower house of parliament, that Czechia condemn the acts of the Russian army in Ukraine as a "genocide". The Ukrainian ambassador to the Czech Republic Yevhen Perebyjnis requested the designation at the party's weekend congress in Ostrava. The chairman of KDU-ČSL's parliamentary group told reporters today that a draft resolution to this effect is being prepared by the party. The Czech parliament has already declared the murder of civilians in Bucha and other Ukrainian localities to be war crimes according to international law.

Education Children-only press conference on war in Ukraine held in Prague

A special press conference for children allowing them to ask questions about the war in Ukraine to senior government officials has been held in Prague. Among the speakers at the event was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Vít Rakušan. Other speakers were psychiatrist and psychotherapist Tomáš Rektor and Ukraine Scout leader Natálie Dubanevičová. The group talked to the children about the war and how it is affecting Ukrainians. The event was organized by Czech Radio's Radiožurnál channel together with the Czech Scout organization.

Tourism Concerns grow over Ukraine impact on Czech tourist season

Representatives of the Czech tourism industry have expressed concern about the ability of the country to accommodate tourists during peak season alongside the large numbers of Ukrainian refugees now in the Czech Republic. Estimates from the Czech Ministry of the Interior suggest thousands of refugees remain in temporary accommodation, and according to the president of the Association of Hotels and Restaurants, about 35 percent of the 10,000 beds offered by facilities which are members of the association are currently occupied. Interior Minister Vít Rakušan meanwhile suggested Czechia is now past the peak of the refugee wave.

Refugees Confusion arises over emergency tent shelters for refugees

Emergency tent accommodation for refugees from Ukraine used to accommodate Romani refugees have become the subject of confusion after their dismantling was ordered by a Prague Deputy Mayor. Later, another official said operations at the tents were all in order and that the previous claim they would be taken down was a "misunderstanding." But two tents were taken down after it was claimed problems had been experienced with Romani refugees. The Czech Press Agency spoke to people familiar with the Vysočany tent center, who said they had experienced no problems with Romani refugees staying in the tents. Interior Minister Vít Rakušan has waded into the affair, meeting representatives of Romani organizations and ensuring the involvement of the Romani community to ensure better arrangements for Romani refugees from Ukraine.

Education Czech Technology Agency earmarks funds for Ukrainian researchers

The Technology Agency of the Czech Republic has earmarked CZK 14 million for involving Ukrainian refugees in research projects. Most of the money has already been allocated to particular projects, and an increase in money for Ukrainian researchers was confirmed after the agency received "dozens of requests" for involvement. Most of the projects cover social and business trends in Czechia as well as environmental programs for eco-innovation projects.

Work Czech businesses hope to plug labor gaps with refugees

According to a survey cited by Aktualně.cz, 59 percent of Czech companies are keen to hire Ukrainian refugees to help fill labor gaps left by the Czech Republic's difficult economic situation. The impact of the Covid pandemic has left many businesses with severe labor shortages, and many workers are reluctant to change work for fear of another crisis causing further uncertainty. Declining numbers of applicants make the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have arrived in the country since late February a clear potential new labor force. A large majority of Ukrainian refugees are women with children, which may have an effect on the types of work which they would be willing to do in Czechia.

April 25, 2022

FINANCES First Czech bank accepts Ukrainian currency

As of today, all Raiffeisenbank branches with a cash desk are accepting the Ukrainian hryvnia currency. Hryvnia can be deposited in personal accounts to be converted into another currency of choice. Money from these accounts can be withdrawn immediately and without restrictions in bank branches or from ATMs, according to the bank. Raiffeisenbank is the first in Czechia to allow the deposit of the Ukrainian currency and the free use of the deposited money. Due to limited convertibility, Raiffeisenbank will buy a maximum of 5,000 hryvnia per day from each customer, and only banknotes with a value of twenty hryvnia or higher will be accepted.

SANCTIONS EU to agree on new package of sanctions against Russia

European Commissioner Věra Jourová expects the EU to agree on the sixth package of sanctions against Russia next week, she said on a discussion panel on Czech Television this weekend. In addition to the five packages of economic sanctions, EU countries are discussing an embargo on energy imports, although this issue is highly disputed. Jourova pointed out that maintaining unity in the European stance on Russia is the top priority; Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger and Czech Finance Minister Zbyněk Stanjura agreed with her.

Stanjura said that if Czechia fills all its gas containers before the next winter season, it will have enough gas for the heating of households. He said he is negotiating together with other EU countries about new sources of gas for firms. A complete economic embargo is supported especially by the countries of the eastern flank of the EU, while Germany, Hungary, and Austria are against it for economic reasons.

REFUGEES The number of refugees in Czechia has stabilized at around 300,000

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, the Ministry of the Interior has issued 308,170 visas to refugees from Ukraine. The number of visas issued has been declining in recent weeks. Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said last week that the number of refugees had stabilized at around 300,000. Although the ministry issues additional visas, some Ukrainians are leaving the Czech Republic.

The influx of migrants coming to Slovakia also recedes. According to the data released by the Slovak Interior Ministry, there are days when more people cross the border on their way from Slovakia to Ukraine than the other way round. In reaction to the data, the immigration police will reduce the operation of its large-capacity centers for refugees.

ARMS Czechia denies arms exports to Russia under embargo

The Czech Defence Ministry has not confirmed any significant arms exports to Russia since 2014, when the European Union imposed an embargo on such exports after Russia annexed Crimea. If Czechia delivered any arms to Russia in 2015 or later, it was based on contracts that had been concluded before August 2014, said Industry and Trade Ministry spokesman Vojtěch Srnka.

The Daily Telegraph wrote on Saturday that Czechia delivered arms worth €14.3 million to Russia in 2015-2020, despite the embargo. Referring to an EU analysis, the British paper wrote that Russia probably uses these arms, including bombs and missiles, in its current military aggression against Ukraine.

EDUCATION Ukrainian children to be given priority in Beroun's schools over children from neighbouring villages

Children of Ukrainian refugees will be given priority to attend Beroun's primary schools, while children from surrounding municipalities will be at disadvantage, reports Novinky.cz. Beroun's city administration said that the capacity is just right for the locals and the children of Ukrainian refugees. Children from nearby villages, however, will probably not be given space.

The town hall in Beroun and the town halls in the surrounding municipalities have long been involved in a dispute over the placement of children in primary schools. Beroun administration said that the capacity for children from Beroun is sufficient and the capacity for refugee children is being addressed, noting that children from surrounding villages will be next in line for placement in schools.

RAILWAYS Train carriers transported 120,000 refugees to Czechia

So far, domestic railway carriers have transported over 120,000 refugees from Ukraine to the Czech Republic. Since the outbreak of the war, they have sent 60 humanitarian connections to Ukraine or its borders, carrying more than 4,000 tons of humanitarian aid. 

The biggest influx of passengers was recorded in the first weeks of the conflict in Ukraine. In April, their number gradually decreased. Some of the refugees traveling to the Czech Republic do not stay in the country and are heading to other European countries.

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