Overview of Czech news: Monday, February 28, 2022
14:31 Public transport in Prague will be free for Ukrainian citizens
13:33 Fiala supports Ukraine’s EU candidacy
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala voiced his support for Ukraine’s application to join the EU, saying it should be clear that Ukraine is welcome in the European community of democratic states. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called this morning for his country to be immediately admitted to the EU. Fiala said that although he is a “fan of standard procedures”, the current situation is far from standard.
12:05 Agreement on the coordinated system of reception of Ukrainian refugees
Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakušan and Ukrainian Ambassador to Prague Yehven Perebyinis agreed on mutual cooperation for the reception of Ukrainian nationals in the Czech Republic. Rakušan tweeted about the deal after meeting the diplomat today. He did not specify the specific terms of the agreement, except that it is to help Ukrainian refugees. Rakušan will give a press briefing later in the day on Czechia’s four-level aid program based on the intensity of aid required by a given situation. Last week, the government activated the second tier of aid within this system, to which up to 5,000 people can be helped.
10:20 Ostrava plans to end partnership with Volgograd
Ostrava, the Czech Republic’s third-largest city, is considering ending its seven-decade partnership with the Russian city of Volgograd over the war in Ukraine. Mayor of Ostrava, Tomáš Macura, said that the city was considering moving, depending on the position of the Volgograd authorities during the war. Ostrava has already cut off the city of Donetsk as a partner metropolis, due to the region’s support for Russian separatism.
10:17 Czech fugitive on Europol’s most wanted list surrenders in Dakar
Stanislav Seidl, 49, a Czech national who has been on Europol’s most wanted criminals list since 2016, surrendered to the Czech Embassy in Dakar, waiter SeznamZpravy reported today. Seidl disappeared overseas in 2011 when he was due to begin serving a prison sentence for stealing from an optician. The international manhunt for Seidl began in the fall of 2011. In addition to property crimes, Seidl’s criminal profile also involves the illegal trade in weapons, ammunition, explosives, money laundering and human trafficking. Seidl is currently being held in a police station on the outskirts of Dakar. He told the waiter that he came out of hiding due to a lack of money and a bad mental state.
Anti-war demonstration Prime Minister Fiala speaks during a protest in Wenceslas Square
The protest began with a minute’s silence for those killed in Ukraine. Fiala then said the Czech government was seeking new sanctions against Russia, describing himself as “happy that the world has passed tough and strong sanctions that will hurt Russia’s leadership.” Protest organizers warned that “Putin’s will to power will clearly not stop at Russia’s borders” and called the war in Ukraine a struggle “for the freedom of all of Europe”.
Russia-Ukraine Beginning of peace negotiations on the Belarusian border
A Ukrainian delegation has arrived at the Belarusian border ahead of negotiations on the ongoing conflict with Russia which will take place this morning near the Pripyat River. The security of the delegation was guaranteed by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. Independent Belarusian channel Nexta wrote on Twitter that “the Ukrainian delegation is on its way to the venue in Belarus.”
The exact location of the talks is unknown. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky initially rejected the idea of peace talks in Belarus, given that some Russian forces were launched into Ukraine from there. Zelensky said he didn’t have much hope for the talks, but wanted to show that Ukraine wanted peace. Zelensky himself will not attend the talks for security reasons.
Czechs Abroad Czechs recalled from Russia and Belarus despite flight bans
The Czech Foreign Ministry calls on Czech nationals in Russia and Belarus to return home. Further information will be posted on the Ministry website and sent through the DROZD traveler system. The staff of the Czech Embassy in Ukraine has already returned to their home country.
The call for the Czechs to return comes amid widespread flight cancellations resulting from the closure of EU airspace to Russian airlines. Aeroflot has canceled all flights to Europe from today until further notice. Road and rail traffic is also difficult in many places due to the escalating crisis of refugees fleeing Ukraine.
Media Czech TV reporters arrested in Ukraine for alleged espionage
Journalists from Czech television and CNN Prima News were temporarily detained by Ukrainian police on Friday and Saturday after being suspected of being spies. CNN journalist Patrik Kaizr and cameraman David Malý were arrested near the Ukraine-Poland border after locals reported them for alleged spying. They were held at gunpoint and handcuffed, before being forced to leave Ukraine.
Czech TV reported that Andreas Papadopulos wrote on Twitter that Ukrainian police arrested them on their way to Kyiv. Police believed the camera crew was filming nearby military installations. Meanwhile, journalists from Seznam Zpravy were also arrested, this time for taking photos of Ukrainian servicemen. Ukrainian fears of sabotage and espionage are strong following the invasion launched last Thursday by Russia.
sport Czech footballers won’t face Russia in World Cup qualifiers
Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Czech Football Association executive committee has decided that the Czech national team will not face Russia in the March qualifiers for the upcoming World Cup. The Association’s decision follows similar moves by the Swedish and Polish football authorities.
International football body FIFA has kicked off talks on whether or not to face Russia, although it has not yet ruled Russia out of the World Cup qualifiers. FIFA has not ruled out that such a measure could be taken in the future. The Czech team is due to face Sweden on March 24 and then face the winner of a game between Russia and Poland. How the refusal to play against Russia will be resolved remains unclear: the Russians could be kicked out of the competition altogether, or they could be named winners of those matches by default.