Warm weather finally arrives in Czechia this week

15:18 Russian intelligence activities thwarted by Czech deportations

Director of the Czech Security Information Service, Michal Koudelka, claimed that Russian intelligence activities had been significantly reduced in the Czech Republic following diplomatic expulsions over the past year. Speaking at a security conference in the Czech parliament today, Koudelka said Russia was now unable to carry out major intelligence operations on Czech territory. Only six diplomatic staff and 25 technical and administrative staff currently work at the Russian Embassy in Prague.

14:16 Babiš and Pavel favorites for the presidency, according to a poll

Opposition leader Andrej Babiš and retired general Petr Pavel are the two favorites to be the next Czech president, according to a new poll by pollster Median released today. The poll predicts that Babiš would currently get 25% of the vote and Pavel 20%. The pair lead by a significant margin over other options, including Senator Pavel Fischer, economist Danuše Nerudová and billionaire Karel Janeček. Neither Babiš nor Pavel have yet pledged to run for office next year, although participation by both is widely expected.

11:00 Warmer weather is coming to Czechia this week

The Czech Republic will see a gradual warming this week with the highest temperatures predicted by meteorologists for Thursday, when the 20 degree Celsius barrier could be breached. The next few days will be mostly sunny, with temperatures expected to reach 18 degrees tomorrow before approaching 20 on Wednesday and Thursday. Temperatures are then expected to cool again over the Easter holidays, with some rain showers also likely. Night frosts are expected to continue through Tuesday this week.

10:00 Another billionaire announces candidacy for Czech presidency

Another candidate has thrown his hat into the ring for next year’s Czech presidential race. Tomáš Březina, one of the richest Czechs, will officially announce his candidacy on Wednesday this week, confirming his intention to the business daily Hospodářské noviny. Březina assured the portal that he “has not gone mad” but wants to build “a better Czechia”. Březina’s candidacy comes after another super-rich businesswoman, Karel Janeček, also decided to run for president in 2023. Březina’s political leanings are unclear, although he has previously criticized the ANO movement of ‘Andrej Babiš as “a marketing project”.

09:00 Prague metro line C closed due to graffiti artists

Line C of the Prague Metro stopped running for more than an hour between Ládví and Florenc this morning as graffiti artists were thought to be moving on the tracks at Nádraží Holešovice station. A subsequent police search turned up no disbelievers, but discovered a damaged subway car. Police continue to search for those suspected of entering non-public areas and damaging the subway train. The metro is now operating normally.

Military Czech army steps up recruitment

The Czech military is stepping up recruitment plans for this year, likely in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and increased military spending. Instead of the originally planned 700 recruits, some 1,800 men and women are now expected to join the army this year. The increase is attributed to a decision by Defense Minister Jana Černochová.

Interest in joining both the regular army and the active reserve forces of the Czech Republic has increased since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. There are currently 27,000 people in the Czech army, a figure that is expected to increase by 3,000 by 2030.

Policy Poll: the ruling coalition would win the elections but Babiš is getting stronger

A new election poll by the polling agency Kantar CZ suggests that the coalition “Together” (SPOLU) would win the Czech general elections held today, with 31.5% of the vote. However, Andrej Babiš’s ANO party has strengthened since the general elections in October and is due to win 29% of the vote.

Third place would go to the Pirates + STAN coalition with 15.5% of the vote, while the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party would get 9.5%. Election modellers have noted that positive perceptions of Prime Minister Petr Fiala are growing due to his handling of the Ukraine crisis, leading to increased support for Civic Democrats, his party in the SPOLU electoral coalition.

Religion The second largest synagogue in Europe will reopen in Pilsen

The Great Synagogue in Pilsen, the second largest synagogue in Europe and one of the five largest in the world, reopened last night after a three-year restoration project. A march through the city brought Torah from the nearby Old Synagogue to the Great Synagogue, with hundreds of people taking part, including rabbis and Jewish community representatives from across the country.

The placement of the Torah scroll in the Torah Ark signified the rebirth of religious life in the Great Synagogue, according to the vice-president of the Jewish community of Pilsen, Roman Stix. The synagogue is open to the public starting today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Saturdays and Jewish holidays.

zoo Elephant injured at Prague Zoo

An elephant at Prague Zoo injured a zookeeper yesterday morning. A 31-year-old woman had to be taken to hospital by paramedics with injuries to her pelvis, chest and arm after the incident with Tamara, an elephant from Sri Lanka.

Rescue staff were called to the zoo at 08:00, after an incident a zoo spokesperson described as highly unusual in the Czech Republic. More information about the event will be released after investigation. Elephants have been bred at Prague Zoo since 1933, and the zoo is currently home to nine elephant dwellers.

Culture Karel Gott’s Biography Wins Book of the Year Award

A biography of beloved Czech singer Karel Gott has won the Magnesia Litera 2022 Book of the Year award. “Gott: a Czechoslovak storywas written by music journalist Pavel Klusák and acts as a window into the times through the prism of Gott’s life and career.

The jury said that Klusák’s book contextualizes Gott’s life within the political and cultural history of the country, while describing the changes in the development of pop music over several generations. Gott was at the pinnacle of Czech music for six decades, with fans in Czechoslovakia as well as Germany, Poland and Russia. He died in 2019. The Magnesia Litera Prizes are awarded annually by representatives of the Czech literary sphere in various categories.

Berta D. Wells