Ukraine update: 'For those shot during Prague Spring 1968!' appears on Ukrainian fighter missile

A daily dispatch on how the war in Ukraine is impacting life in the Czech Republic. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 16.05.2022 12:32:00 (updated on 20.05.2022) Reading time: 11 minutes

May 20, 2022

The Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has criticized what he called a lack of support from NATO since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine three months ago. “The E.U. has proven to be an organization capable of acting as a united front and making powerful, important, difficult decisions in contrast to NATO,” the minister said on Thursday night during a nationwide telethon to raise funds for the country. The EU will donate CZK 680 million to the Czech Republic for tackling the refugee wave, Germany donates 15 tanks to Czechia.

Refugees Most requests for Ukrainian solidarity subsidy settled

  • Czech job offices have settled roughly three-quarters of applications for solidarity subsidies for the accommodation of Ukrainian refugees. The money has been paid out or prepared for payment to about 23,500 applicants, with over 32,800 applications received.

  • Some applicants are complaining that they have not obtained the money and that the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry is not communicating with them. The ministry has repeatedly warned that a part of the applications contained errors that must be removed.

Military Ukrainian fighter missile signed 'For those shot during Prague Spring 1968!'

  • The Ambassador of Ukraine to the Czech Republic Yevhen Perebyinis published a photo on his Twitter account featuring R-27 air-to-air missile on a Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter with an inscription in Czech: "For those shot during Prague Spring 1968!" (translated from Czech).

  • "The Ukrainian fighter missile has clear recipients and reasons," the ambassador writes.

Policy State of emergency extended until end-June

  • The state of emergency in Czechia, now in effect over the mass inflow of refugees from Ukraine attacked by Russia, will keep in force until end-June, as the Chamber of Deputies approved the government proposal to extend it by 30 days after a six-hour debate today.

  • The state of emergency will last 119 days in total. In the meantime, by July 1, the cabinet wants to push through amendments to the relevant laws that would enable the state to tackle the refugee wave without the need for a state of emergency.

SUPPORT German Defence Ministry confirms donation of 15 tanks to Czechia

  • The German Defence Ministry gifted 15 Leopard 2A4 tanks to the Czech Republic to replace the T-72 tanks that the Czech Republic has recently provided to Ukraine.

  • Berlin will also add ammunition of 120mm caliber for 30 days to the tanks and expects the supplies to start this year already.

  • The Czech Defence Ministry also starts negotiating with Germany about the purchase of up to 50 further Leopard 2A7+ tanks in various modifications.

May 19, 2022

Fast entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO has been put on hold, due to opposition from Turkey, which blocked the opening of the debate. All existing members have to agree on the acceptance of new members. German Chancellor Olaf Schulz told the German parliament that the war in Ukraine was a “turning point in history” and Germany would not accept the terms for ending the fighting that Russia would like to dictate. He added that NATO cannot become involved in the war. The EU must already start preparing to help with the reconstruction of Ukraine, which will cost billions of euros, he said.

Policy Govt. approves stricter measures for refugees

The government has approved stricter rules for Ukrainian refugees called Lex Ukraine II. The amendment has been put in place so that the government can manage the Ukraine crisis without a state of emergency, Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said. The new amendment implements the following measures:

  • The deadline for processing the temporary protection request is set to 60 days. Protection will not be granted to people who are already EU citizens.

  • Refugees will be obliged to report a change in their residence in three days instead of 15. The public health insurance period will be 180 days.

  • The state will not have to pay humanitarian aid of CZK 5,000 to people who receive food and hygiene kits at the accommodation premises for free.

  • Under the amendment, Czechia would not issue visas to Russians and Belarusians even after the state of emergency ends.

Refugees Fewer temporary protection visas issued than last week

  • The Czech Republic has so far granted 348,177 temporary protection visas to Ukrainian refugees fleeing from the war since its start on Feb. 24.

  • A new video by the Prague Fire Brigade shows the life of Ukrainian refugees at the tent camp in Troja.

Support for opposition Foreign Ministry to aid persecuted Russians and Belarusians

  • The Czech Foreign Ministry has prepared a program to aid Russian and Belarusian citizens who face persecution in their motherland, such as independent journalists and academics, Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský said. The program is to help the people actively opposing the regimes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

  • In Prague, conditions will be created for representatives of civic society so that they can continue with their activities. The government will cooperate with NGOs that will be in charge of the basic affairs. The program will concern a very carefully chosen group of people. Lipavský declined to give further details due to security reasons.

May 18, 2022

Neutral throughout the Cold War, Finland and Sweden formally requested to join NATO at the military alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, beginning an accession process that could reshape transatlantic security, as attacks continued in western Ukraine — not far from the military alliance’s border in Poland.

Policy Government may prolong state of emergency over Ukrainian migration

  • The Czech government approved the proposal to prolong the state of emergency declared over the migration from Ukraine by 30 days, till the end of June, at its urgent meeting on Tuesday, said PM Petr Fiala.

  • The government request will now be reviewed by the Chamber of Deputies. If not extended, the measures will end on May 31.

  • The state of emergency is primarily needed to lodge the people, among others in the places where the regulations have not commonly enabled this, Rakušan said. Another reason is an easier payment of the costs of humanitarian accommodation to self-rule bodies.

  • The government has started drafting amendments to the legislation called lex Ukraine so that the needed rules could continue also without a state of emergency.

Refugees Rakušan, Hřib met governors to discuss redistribution of refugees

  • Rakušan, Hřib met the governors of the country's 13 regions to discuss ways to redistribute the refugees from more burdened regions to less burdened ones. Talks will resume on Thursday.

  • The Interior Ministry plans to toughen the checks on refugees and the system of social aid.

  • The overall number of visas issued since the February 24 start of the Russian aggression reached 346,770.

military Czech Gripen aircraft intervened on Russian aircraft

  • Czech Gripen fighters have been protecting NATO airspace in the Baltics for two months now. On Sunday, the army published a video on Twitter, which shows that Czech fighters intervened on three Russian planes.

  • According to the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense, Alliance planes took off for Russian aircraft five times. However, the report does not state which of the NATO aircraft took part in the sharp takeoffs.

May 17, 2022

About 10 buses with Ukrainian soldiers left the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, news agency Reuters reported. Ukrainian Commander Denys Prokopenko said that his men had fulfilled their mission and that he wanted to keep his subordinates alive. He did not refer to the withdrawal as a surrender. Ukraine's military said it is trying to evacuate all remaining troops from Mariupol. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar said the evacuees will be subject to a potential prisoner exchange with Russia.

Czechs in Ukraine Body of missing Czech volunteer found in grave near Kyiv

  • The dead body of a 49-year-old Czech man who went to Ukraine as a volunteer after the Russian invasion was found near Kyiv in a mass grave, the Kyiv regional police said on its Facebook page. The burials were found at the ring road near Makarov, where Russian soldiers were stationed during the fighting.

  • The police said he stopped contacting his relatives and friends on March 3. They said the man has a wife and brother in the Czech Republic. The Czech Foreign Ministry said it knows about the case of a Czech national who died in Ukraine and is in contact with his family. It is not releasing further details for now.

Policy Government will seek to extend state of emergency

  • The government will probably ask the Chamber of Deputies to extend the state of emergency, currently set to end on May 31, by 30 days. The government then plans to use June to enforce some emergency measures.

  • Following the government meeting, the State Security Council will also meet today. The Interior Ministry also wants to continue to restrict the entry and residence of Russian and Belarusian citizens in the Czech Republic by refusing to accept visa applications.

Aid Czech govt. plans to tighten controls on benefits

  • The Interior Ministry is preparing to tighten refugee controls and the allocation of social assistance. Concerning the first humanitarian benefit after coming to the Czech Republic, the Interior Ministry and the Labor and Social Affairs are creating a system so that the benefit for people accommodated in mass-type facilities could be replaced by the state paying for food and all security.

Refugees 15,000 refugees arrived by train in first half of May

  • In the first half of May, about 15,000 refugees from Ukraine arrived in the Czech Republic by train, while around 13,500 of them left the country by train, according to Transport Minister Martin Kupka. People who fled the Russian invasion of the Czech Republic are now returning to Ukraine or leaving for other countries.

  • Kupka said the data for the first half of May is only for refugees who used rail transport. Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said there are now an estimated 200,000 refugees in the Czech Republic.

  • According to Minister Rakušan, the Czech authorities should get a better overview at the end of May, when a pan-European information system should be launched, to which Czech police officers will have access.
  • The Czech Republic on Monday granted 1,988 emergency visas to Ukrainians, who have been affected by the Russian invasion of their country, about 800 fewer than a week ago. Some 345,203 emergency visas have been granted since the start of the invasion so far, the Interior Ministry said on Twitter.

Sanctions EU fails to agree on new round of sanctions against Russia

  • The Hungarian government's decision not to support any sanctions against Russian energy export, is unacceptable, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipávsky wrote on Twitter today. On Monday, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that Hungary would need EUR 15 billion to 18 billion to modernize its energy industry and distribution structure. "Europe needs to be united now, more than ever before," Lipávsky wrote.
  • The European Union has not yet agreed on new sanctions against Russia. The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrel, said an agreement could be two weeks away. News server Politico reported that Hungary is holding a proposed ban on all imports of Russian crude and refined fuels because the ban would have a large negative impact on the Hungarian economy.

  • Hungary and Slovakia have received an exemption from the embargo until the end of 2024, and the Czech Republic until the middle of 2024. Hungary, though, still wants additional concessions.

  • The EU did agree on spending EUR 500 million on the purchase of weapons for Ukraine.

May 16, 2022

Russia called Finland and Sweden’s moves toward joining NATO a “mistake” that could have “far-reaching consequences” — as both Nordic nations dispatched troops to participate in large-scale exercises by the military alliance. NATO member countries and partners will hold large-scale drills in Estonia and Lithuania. Meanwhile, Prague struggles to accommodate Ukrainian refugees as the tent town in Troja reaches its capacity. Protesters at Prague's Old Town Square show support for the evacuation of the soldiers trapped in Mariupol's Azovstal.

Refugees Refugee tent camp in Troja reaches almost full capacity

  • The tent camp in the Prague-Troja neighborhood is almost full as 142 refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine were relocated there from Prague's main train station this weekend. The tent camp has 150 beds.

  • The Czech Republic has so far granted 343,215 temporary protection visas to Ukrainians fleeing from the war since its start on February 24.

  • Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said on Sunday that over 200,000 Ukrainian refugees are in the country. Czech authorities should have a better view of the figures by the end of May when a European IT system is to be launched upon request of the Czech Republic.

AID British agency launches 'Homes for Ukraine' program in Prague

  • The newly launched project, located at the City Hall, offers Ukrainian refugees the opportunity to find suitable hosts in the UK, with whom they will then apply for a British refugee visa. The project is a part of the British 'Homes for Ukraine' program.

  • Visas provide refugees with a residence permit in the UK, which can be extended for 3 years, as well as health insurance, immediate access to education and the labor market, or entitlement to various social assistance schemes, such as a one-off accommodation allowance, child allowances, or support until gaining employment. 

  • The time taken to process a visa application ranges from a few days to a few weeks, so it is advisable for refugees to secure temporary protection in the Czech Republic in the meantime.

Support Hundreds of people gather in Prague to support Azovstal soldiers

  • Over 200 people gathered at the Prague Old Town Square on Sunday to support the evacuation of the soldiers trapped in Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant and their families living in Czechia.

  • At the rally, people could also sign a petition calling on the world to immediately respond to the situation in Mariupol and save the lives of Ukrainian defenders.

  • Azovstal steel plant is the last Ukrainian stronghold in Mariupol. The city had been besieged and bombarded for several days. Now, it is in Russia's hands, but hundreds of Ukrainian fighters are still hiding in the steel plant as Russians keep bombarding the city. For nearly three months, defenders do not have access to drinking water, there is almost no food or medicine, and the soldiers are under constant firing.

Policy Government to launch a new aid system for refugees

  • The Interior Ministry is debating a change in the financial aid for refugees. Together with the Labor ministries, they are preparing a system based on which the aid for people lodged at mass accommodation facilities would transform: instead of giving money to refugees, the state would pay for their food and take care of their security.

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