Czech daily news roundup: Friday, Feb. 25, 2022
16:00 Czech govt. approves CZK 300m aid package to Ukraine
The Czech govt. approved CZK 300 million worth of humanitarian aid for Ukrainians who must evacuate their homes due to the Russian military invasion, PM Petr Fiala said Friday, adding that the industry minister has been tasked with providing fuels to Ukraine in accordance with NATO’s request. In the coming days Czechia can also supply blood and blood plasma to Ukraine, Fiala said. The Czech Republic is waiting for a response from the Ukrainian authorities to determine the next steps. Deeper scrutiny and further sanctions are also being considered against Russian-owned businesses in Czechia.
16:00 Czechia can send rapid reaction forces anywhere in NATO
The Czech military can send up to 580 troops designated for the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) anywhere in the territory of NATO, the cabinet decided today. NATO member countries’ armed forces will also be allowed to move in Czech territory and refuel at local airports, etc. The government decision is linked to the steps taken by NATO, which activated its defense plans on Thursday in reaction to Russia’s military attack on Ukraine.
A total of 400 Czech soldiers from the rapid reaction brigade and 180 chemical warfare specialists are designated for NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, part of the NATO Response Force, which must be ready to intervene within a few days if needed. The units earmarked for the VJFT rotate once a year. They include soldiers from the ground, air, special forces, and navy.
15:39 Czechia suspends visas for Russian citizens
In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, will suspend the issuance of visas to Russian nationals except for humanitarian cases and will recommend the same to other states, PM Petr Fiala told reporters Friday. The decision goes into effect as of today. Fiala said the Czech Republic had withdrawn its consent to the operation of Russian general consulates in Karlovy Vary, West Bohemia, and Brno, and suspended the operation of the Czech general consulates in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg in Russia.
Fiala said the Czech Republic has reduced the activities of Russian intelligence services in the country and limited diplomatic relations with Russia to a minimum after a secret report last year revealed Russian intelligence’s involvement in the 2014 ammunition-depot blasts in Vrbetice, South Moravia.
15:20 Czech restricts Russian operation in its airspace
Transport Minister Martin Kupka will definitively decide on a restriction of some Russian companies’ operation in Czech airspace Friday, PM Petr Fiala told media after a cabinet meeting, adding that Kupka is discussing a concrete extent of restrictions with Poland. Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki announced earlier today that Poland will close its airspace to planes belonging to the Russian air carriers.
14:00 Slovakia sends soldiers to help police at Ukrainian border
Slovakia has sent 500 soldiers to help police at the border with Ukraine, but Interior Minister Roman Mikulec said there are no crowds so far on the Slovak side of the border crossings and the authorities have not requested help. Slovak hospitals have prepared for refugees. “The border crossings face no extreme pressure. People are coming in small groups. Those coming from Ukraine request nothing. Most of them have relatives in Slovakia or other countries,” Mikulec told journalists.
The Slovak Interior Ministry said the main crossing at Vyšné Nemecké/Uzhhorod, Ukraine is allowing only children, women, and elderly people out of the country. At another crossing, Ubla/Malý Berezný, people must wait for up to six hours due to the security procedures on the Ukrainian side, the Slovak ministry said.
13:57 Senate wants Russia, Belarus banned from world organizations
The Senate, the upper house of the Czech parliament, called for the immediate adoption of the toughest sanctions against Russia Friday and for the expulsion of Russia and Belarus from international organizations over the military attack against Ukraine. All 50 senators present supported this stance. The Senate called for a united position on the exclusion of the Russian Federation from the SWIFT global payment system.
Senators also recommended that the International Criminal Court in the Hague deal with the military conflict in Ukraine. They said Russian President Vladimir Putin and other representatives of the Russian Federation and Belarus are responsible for the crimes that fall under this court’s jurisdiction. The Senate recommended that the defense capabilities of the countries of Central and East Europe be reinforced.
12:02 Czech sports official wants to exclude Russian athletes from races
Czech National Sports Agency head Filip Neusser has called for the elimination of Russian athletes from European and world championships after the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, he tweeted today, saying he wanted to coordinate his steps with Prime Minister Petr Fiala. Czech Olympic Committee head Jiri Kejval, however, said on Thursday he did not consider it appropriate to apply the principle of collective guilt to individual Russian athletes by banning them from international competitions. Neusser proposed these sanctions in a letter to the government.
The European football association UEFA today decided that the final game of the Champions League will not be played in St. Petersburg on May 28, but in Paris, due to the Russian invasion. The International Ski Federation canceled all World Cup races held in Russia.
UKRAINE Czech lower house denounces Russian aggression as barbaric
The Czech Chamber of Deputies denounced the Russian military action in Ukraine as “barbaric, unexcusable and unprovoked aggression” that is threatening the architecture of European security at its emergency session on Thursday. The resolution, approved by all 166 deputies present, supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty in internationally recognized borders. It called on the government to approve swift sanctions against Russia and continue support to Ukraine. The Czech Republic should also quickly and substantially contribute to the reinforcement of the NATO eastern flank, MPs agreed.
Ukrainian Ambassador Yevhen Perebyinis gave a speech of thanks and confirmed that Ukraine needs help in the form of weapons, oil, and money. Ukraine has called up its reservists, including those Ukrainians living in the Czech Republic. The Czech transport minister vowed transport assistance to Ukrainians living in the Czech Republic who want to return home to defend their homeland.
Prague Thousands protest Russian invasion of Ukraine
Thousands of people gathered in Prague’s central Wenceslas Square on late Thursday afternoon to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine launched Thursday morning. The rally was organized by the Czech and Ukrainian communities and the Million Moments for Democracy movement. An estimated 3,000 people, many of them young Ukrainians, attended the event, carrying banners reading “Putin before international tribunal” and “Stop Putin’s crime.” An additional 2,000 people protested against the Russian invasion of Ukraine outside the Russian embassy in Prague Thursday, which lasted into the evening.
Prague City Hall said that further protests are scheduled to take place outside the Russian embassy every day until February 26 from 16:00 to 22:00, and in Wenceslas Square again on Friday at 17:00. The Million Moments group will also stage a demonstration in Wenceslas Square on Sunday, Feb. 27.
Poll Majority of Czechs condemn Russian attacks
Almost 90 percent of Czechs view Russia’s attack on Ukraine as inexcusable aggression and most are in favor of the country accepting Ukrainian refugees, according to a public-opinion poll conducted by the Median agency for Czech Radio Thursday. Russia launched its attack on Ukraine Thursday morning. The Ukrainian authorities report 57 Ukrainians dead and 169 wounded as a result of the aggression.
In the Median poll, 87 percent of Czechs said they agree with labeling the Russian invasion an inexcusable act of aggression. Only 9 percent of the respondents were opposed to such a description of the act. Sixty-nine percent of those polled were in favor of accepting refugees while 25 percent were against it. About three-fifths of respondents admitted that they fear an influx of refugees.
Over 90 percent of respondents are most afraid of the rising prices of food, fuels, and other essential goods brought on by the conflict. Almost 90 percent said they also fear a long-lasting war conflict with bloodshed and an overall deterioration of the security situation in Europe.
Eighty-eight percent of Czechs welcome the installation of peace by diplomatic negotiations. Four-fifths approve the economic sanctions. Only 28 percent of Czechs believe that the EU and NATO should solve the conflict by an armed counter-attack, according to the poll which was conducted on 1,091 people Thursday.
telecoms Mobile operators enable free calls between Czechia-Ukraine
The volume of calls from the Czech Republic to Ukraine increased significantly on Thursday compared to normal call traffic. Recently, calls were higher by a maximum of 20 to 30 percent, according to domestic operators. Vodafone said the increase in the number of calls hit 900 percent the day the invasion into Ukraine was launched. All calls to Ukraine are now free from the Vodafone network. On Wednesday, T-Mobile said it had seen traffic growth of about 18 percent over the past two weeks. Due to the war, T-Mobile has also enabled free calls and text between the Czech Republic.
charity Czech companies make large donations to Ukraine
Czech companies and entrepreneurs have stepped up to help Ukraine in the face of the Russian attack. Pale Fire Capital investment group is donating CZK 22 million for immediate humanitarian aid to Ukraine. At the same time, it is supplying 250 beds for refugees. Owner of the Seznam.cz media empire Ivo Lukačovič, is sending another CZK 23 million to help refugees from Ukraine. He also called on Czech billionaires to donate generously to the cause via Twitter.
The internet retailer Alza.cz set aside a million crowns of assistance while. Česká spořitelna released CZK 10 million from its foundation to help Ukraine as well. Many of the businesses are organizing aid through major NGOs such as Czech Red Cross, People in Need, ADRA, Post Bellum, the Archdiocesan Caritas CR, and Médecins Sans Frontières.