Overview of Czech news: Tuesday, March 22, 2022
12:42 Prague Spring Music Festival to showcase contemporary music
The Prague Spring International Classical Music Festival will offer an introduction to the world of contemporary art music in May through a new project called Prague Offspring. Contemporary pieces will be performed by Klangforum Wien, one of the world’s top contemporary art music groups, who have accepted a residency at the festival this year. This year’s resident composer will be Olga Neuwirth from Austria, who recently won the prestigious Grawemeyer Music Award and the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize.
11:42 500 Roma fled Ukraine to Czechia
According to the government council for the Roma minority in the Czech Republic, up to 500 people of Roma origin, mostly women and children, fled the war in Ukraine and sought refuge in the Czech Republic. Some of the Roma refugees went to South Moravia, others to Karlovy Vary, others to Western Bohemia, and others to Mladá Boleslav in Central Bohemia. It is believed that most Roma refugees escaped from western Ukraine and the Uzhorod region in a difficult humanitarian context.
Politics Social Democrats try to sell assets to cover debts
The Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD) is trying to sell a CZK 200 million property in downtown Prague to cover its debts. The party failed to gain access to the lower house of the Czech parliament after the elections last October. The sale of the Lanna Palace, a grand neo-Gothic style building, is intended to cover a CZK 205 million loan from Bank Fio. Construction company Finep is believed to be considering buying the party’s sprawling premises.
The music A-ha presents “Take On Me” in Prague on May 1
After two postponements, pop group A-ha will perform their first Czech concert on May 1 at the O2 Arena. The concert will celebrate 35 years since the release of the Norwegian band’s most famous hit “Take On Me”. The Prague date will be part of the band’s European tour, which has been postponed twice due to the pandemic. The three original members of A-ha, Morten Harket, Magne Furholmen and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy will perform on stage. Tickets purchased for the previously announced dates are valid for the May 1 concert.
Refugees The new temporary protection visa comes into force
The Czech Interior Ministry will start issuing temporary protection visas to Ukrainian refugees from today, replacing the special long-term visas issued so far. No change will affect holders of the special visa, which will automatically be transferred to a new temporary protection visa.
Temporary protection will allow refugees to stay in the Czech Republic for up to a year. It gives them access to public health insurance, education, access to the labor market and other necessities such as finding accommodation. Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said 205,500 special visas have so far been granted to Ukrainian refugees in the Czech Republic.
Ukraine President Zelensky appears in a Czech TV interview
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to Czech television in an interview from war-torn Kyiv that aired last night. Speaking to Czech TV journalist Michal Kubal, Zelensky said that Russian demands made during the peace talks, including that Ukraine renounce its claims to the separatist regions of Donbass as well as to Crimea, which has been annexed by Russia in 2014, are unacceptable.
Zelensky told Czech television that Moscow doesn’t really want peace, although it’s impossible to know whether Russia wants to end the war without a face-to-face with Vladimir Putin. Zelensky also said any proposed peace deal would have to be approved by the Ukrainian people in a referendum to be valid.
Police Crimes against Ukrainians reported in Czechia
Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, resulting in a massive influx of refugees into the Czech Republic, 35 Ukrainians have already reported being victims of crime in the country. Police say four of those cases had an ideological motive and one included physical assault. Investigations into seven cases are currently underway, according to police.
Almost all of the incidents involved thefts. Three of the cases involved verbal abuse and one physical abuse. In addition, the police initiated criminal proceedings in 112 cases related to the war in Ukraine; most of them relate to damage to pro-Russian symbols, while others relate to speeches expressing approval of the Russian invasion.
Punishments EU foreign ministers fail to agree on sanctions against Russia
European Union foreign ministers were unable to agree on a fifth sanctions package against Russia during talks yesterday. The next round of economic sanctions against Moscow will again be the subject of a European summit in Brussels on Thursday, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský told reporters.
The EU has already imposed tough sanctions on Russia, but more is needed to limit the revenues of Putin’s regime. A particular area of contention is the import of oil and gas from Russia; Poland and the Baltic states are calling for these imports to stop, while countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Hungary oppose cutting off Russian energy.
Army Last US troops leave Czechia on their way back to base
The transit of a US Army convoy through the Czech Republic en route from exercises in Slovakia to their base in Germany has been completed. American troops have been attending the Saber Strike 2022 exercises in Slovakia in recent weeks, and crossing the Czech Republic via the D2 and D1 highways. The first part of the convoy entered Czechia on Thursday evening, with the soldiers spending the night in a camp in southwestern Moravia before heading to Germany the next day.
The convoy was split into five separate groups for the journey. 1,200 soldiers and 500 military vehicles crossed the Czech Republic in total. The Saber Strike exercises also saw Czech and US troops prepare to participate in a NATO rapid reaction force at the Hradiště training area in northwest Bohemia.