Mass shooting suspect in Prague found dead after killing 14 and injuring 2 dozen more


Important Takeaways:

  • Prague University shooter named as David Kozak who murdered dad before horror spree
  • The evil shooter who killed 14 people at Charles University in Prague and injured at least two dozen more…
  • Police say the killer murdered his father in a nearby town before heading into the Czech capital and going on a shooting spree at the historic site, randomly firing at people from a balcony and then taking his own life. It is the worst mass shooting in the Czech Republic’s history.
  • None of the victims have yet been identified, and the circumstances surrounding the incident have also not yet been determined or revealed.

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Poland refuses to halt disputed coal mine despite EU court penalty

By Foo Yun Chee and Anna Koper

BRUSSELS/WARSAW (Reuters) -Poland vowed to keep its disputed Turow coal mine running on Monday despite being hit with a order to pay a 500,000 euro ($585,550) daily penalty to the European Commission for defying an earlier court ruling to halt operations.

Europe’s top court, the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), ordered the penalty on Monday.

It followed a request from the Czech Republic, which is locked in a dragging dispute with Poland over the Turow open-pit mine that sits next to their shared border. The Czech government says the mine is damaging its communities.

The mine, which produces lignite, or brown coal, has been operating for more than a century, but has recently expanded further towards the Czech border.

The penalty order could pressure Warsaw to seek a resolution with Prague after bilateral talks started in June over technical upgrades and measures to limit damage to water levels and noise and air conditions. A deal should end any legal disputes.

The Polish government said the EU court’s penalty on Monday undermined those talks, and said Turow, a major source of jobs and electricity in its region, would continue operations.

“The fine mentioned by the Court of Justice of the European Union is disproportionate to the situation and is not justified by facts,” Poland’s government said in a statement.

“It undermines the ongoing process of reaching an amicable settlement.”

The court’s order comes amid other disputes Warsaw faces with the European Union, largely over the rule of law.

The Czech Republic has taken its grievance over Turow to the Commission, which last year started legal proceedings, saying Warsaw had breached EU law when extending the mine’s life.

The country also took its case to the CJEU, and won judges’ backing for a temporary order to stop Turow’s operations until a final judgment.


When Warsaw rejected a halt, Prague asked for a daily penalty payment of 5 million euros to be levied.

The court on Monday agreed but set the fine much lower.

“Such a measure appears necessary in order to strengthen the effectiveness of the interim measures decided upon in the order of 21 May 2021 and to deter that member state from delaying bringing its conduct into line with that order,” judges said.

Prague welcomed the penalty but said it still wanted to reach an agreement in an amicable way.

Some Polish officials strongly rejected the order.

“The CJEU demands half a million daily fines from Poland for the fact that Poland did not leave its citizens without energy and did not close the mines overnight,” deputy justice minister Marcin Romanowski said on Twitter.

“It is judicial robbery and theft in broad daylight. You won’t get a cent.”

($1 = 0.8539 euros)

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee in Brussels and Anna Koper in Warsaw; additional reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw and Jason Hovet in Prague; Writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Mark Porter and Jan Harvey)

Czechs order Russia to cut more embassy staff in worsening spy row

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Robert Muller

MOSCOW/PRAGUE (Reuters) -The Czech Republic on Thursday ordered Russia to remove more of its diplomatic staff from Prague in an escalation of the worst dispute between the two countries in decades. Moscow said it would swiftly respond.

The spy row flared on Saturday when Prague expelled 18 Russian staff, whom it identified as intelligence officers, saying two Russian spies accused of a nerve agent poisoning in Britain in 2018 were behind an earlier explosion at a Czech ammunition depot that killed two people.

Russia has denied the Czech accusations and on Sunday ordered out 20 Czech staff in retaliation.

Thursday’s decision, announced by Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek, requires Russia to match the number of Czech envoys in Moscow, meaning Russia will have to pull around 20 diplomats and dozens of other staff from Prague by the end of May.

“We will put a ceiling on the number of diplomats at the Russian embassy in Prague at the current level of our embassy in Moscow,” Kulhanek said. A ministry spokeswoman said the decision included both diplomats and other staff.

“At the moment Prague is on the path to destroying relations,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at her weekly briefing.

“We will respond shortly.”

At a time of acute tensions in Russia’s relations with the West, the dispute has prompted NATO and the European Union to throw their support behind the Czech Republic, which is a member of both blocs.

“Allies express deep concern over the destabilizing actions Russia continues to carry out across the Euro-Atlantic area, including on alliance territory, and stand in full solidarity with the Czech Republic,” NATO’s 30 allies said in a statement.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow took a negative view of Prague’s “hysteria”.

In the past week, Moscow has also kicked out diplomats from Bulgaria, Poland and the United States in retaliation for expulsions of its own staff.

President Vladimir Putin warned foreign powers in his state of the nation speech on Wednesday not to cross Russia’s “red lines”, saying Moscow would make them regret it.


On Wednesday the Czech Republic demanded that Moscow allow the return of all 20 staff to Moscow by Thursday or face further evictions of its diplomats from Prague, but Kulhanek said Moscow did not respond.

The Czechs say the loss of the 20 staff has effectively paralyzed the functioning of their Moscow embassy, which is much smaller than the Russian mission in Prague.

The Czechs have 5 diplomats and 19 other staff in Moscow, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, while Russia has 27 diplomats and 67 other staff in Prague after the previous expulsions. That would mean the Czechs ordered a reduction of 70. The ministry did not spell out exact numbers on Thursday.

The two suspects named by Prague, known under the aliases Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, are reportedly part of the elite Unit 29155 of Russia’s GRU military intelligence service.

Britain charged them in absentia with attempted murder after the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with the nerve agent Novichok in the English city of Salisbury in 2018.

The Skripals survived, but a member of the public died. The Kremlin denied involvement in the incident.

(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov, Tom Balmforth and Dmitry Antonov; Robert mulle rand Jan Lopatka in Prague; additional reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels; writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; editing by Mark Trevelyan and Gareth Jones, William Maclean)

Czechs say Russian retaliation stronger than expected, ask EU partners for solidarity

PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic said on Monday Russia’s eviction of 20 Czech embassy employees in response to Prague’s expulsion of 18 Russian staff was a stronger than expected reaction and the government will consider further steps.

Acting Czech Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek said he had asked fellow European Union foreign ministers for “an expression of solidarity” at a video conference on Monday.

“I expect that also on the basis of this…, we will learn about more expressions of support and it will be up to member states if they add some concrete decisions.”

The central European country ordered the Russian diplomats out on Saturday, saying it suspected Russian intelligence was involved in explosions at an ammunition depot in October and December 2014.

“The reaction (by Russia) is stronger than we had expected, it is more diplomats than the number of intelligence officers we expelled,” Hamacek told a televised news conference.

“I will meet the prime minister and discuss whether and when it will be needed to take some further steps from the Czech side.”

The Czech government has said it has reasonable suspicion that two Russian intelligence agents accused of a nerve agent poisoning in Britain in 2018 were behind the ammunition depot blasts four years before that killed two people.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry criticized Prague’s decision not to disclose all details of the investigation to Moscow, describing the affair as a blow to bilateral relations.

“This is proof that this whole story is a fabricated, dirty, disgusting fake,” RIA news agency cited Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying.

The row is the biggest between Prague and Moscow since the end of decades of Soviet domination of central and eastern European countries in 1989.

The Kremlin, commenting on the allegations that Russian intelligence was involved in the explosions and on the subsequent diplomatic expulsions, called the Czech Republic’s actions “provocative and unfriendly”.

The Czech Foreign Ministry said the Russian Embassy in Prague had 129 diplomats and other personnel, and two regional consulates – about twice the size of the Czech Embassy in Moscow, which the Russian countermeasure left severely hit.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet and Jan Lopatka in Prague, Alexander Marrow in Moscow; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Mourners make Prague’s Old Town Square into somber memorial for coronavirus victims

By Jiri Skacel

PRAGUE (Reuters) – Prague residents laying flowers, scribbling names or mourning quietly have turned the Czech capital’s medieval Old Town Square into an improvised memorial to the thousands of lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic in the past year.

A civic group called “Million Moments for Democracy” sprayed 25,000 white crosses overnight on Monday on the cobble-stoned square, surrounded by gothic and baroque churches and Prague’s famed Astronomical Clock, to commemorate victims of the pandemic in the past year — and blame the government for missteps.

The plan was to wash the crosses off that day, but Prague’s city hall said it would let them stay until rain washes them off.

Then people spontaneously started chalking names, dates of deaths and notes to individual crosses, turning the original act into personal commemorations.

Anna Vojtechova brought a flower and a small bottle of the Czech herbal liqueur Becherovka for her brother, who died aged 75 on March 1, the same day he registered for vaccination.

“He was supposed to be vaccinated and did not live to see it. He was healthy, not obese, no illness. It chewed him up. People must be hugely careful,” she said while fighting tears.

Another mourner, Petr Popov, came to remember a friend from Prague’s Bulgarian community. “I want to write his name down with chalk to pay respects,” he said.

Others, who have not been personally hit, also visit.

Monika Mudranincova said she wanted to pay her respects.

“We feel so sorry and it would be amazing if we saw a light at the end of the tunnel, but it seems there is none yet,” she said.

During the first wave of the pandemic, a year ago, the Czech government quickly shut borders, schools and retail outlets, leading the country through with minimum losses. But it was also quick to relax restrictions after the first wave and slow to build up testing and tracing capacities over the summer.

The government reacted slowly to a new surge in infections in the autumn. Another relaxation before Christmas and the spread of the more infectious British variant of the virus packed hospitals again in January and then March.

Now the central European country of 10.7 million has become one of the world’s worst-hit in the pandemic, reporting over 1.5 million coronavirus infections and 25,639 deaths, and thousands more excess deaths above normal rates.

The death toll is the highest per capita in the world apart from San Marino, according to Our World in Data website.

(Reporting by Jiri Skacel, writing by Jan Lopatka, editing by Larry King)

Overflowing Czech hospitals seek patient transfers as ‘UK variant’ rages

By Robert Muller

NACHOD, Czech Republic (Reuters) – Jan Mach had coped with his eastern Czech district hospital’s COVID-19 wards filling up – until 22 new arrivals on Monday alone were too much and he had to seek outside help.

On Wednesday, ambulances took 15 patients to hospitals as much as 230 km (140 miles) away, as closer ones were also packed.

“We have been close to our ceiling in the past 14 days, we have touched it several times,” director Mach said, adding the 339-bed hospital had 120 COVID-19 patients. “On Monday alone we took in 22 patients and that was beyond our means.”

Nachod and Trutnov, neighboring districts on the Polish border 150 km east of Prague, are among several regions that have seen incessant spread of the disease, despite a national lockdown.

A new, more infectious variant of the virus first detected in Britain is the likely reason – data from January showed between 45% and 60% of new patients were infected with the UK variant.

On Friday, the region of 550,000 reported just four free beds in COVID-19 wards and eight in high dependency and intensive care units (ICUs) treating coronavirus patients.

“We are taking in patients in a more serious condition and younger patients, I mean born 1970 and later, we had not seen that in the autumn,” Mach said.

Patients who would normally be treated in high-dependency units or ICU have had to be given therapies such as high-flow oxygen on normal wards due to the shortage of beds.

Mach spoke minutes after overseeing another ICU patient being transferred to another hospital. Staff dressed in full-body protective gear pushed the trolley past piles of equipment boxes, one of them with the hand-written label “body bags.”

The Czech Republic has ranked among the European countries worst-hit by the pandemic. Only Portugal has reported more new cases per capita in the past two weeks, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

As of Friday morning, the country of 10.7 million had reported 17,902 COVID-19 related deaths.

Still, the parliament voted on Thursday not to extend a national state of emergency, which will lift some of current lockdown measures including the closure of shops, a loosely policed ban on gatherings and a night-time curfew.

Petr Stepanek, chief surgeon in the resuscitation unit at Nachod hospital, said the situation was “very tense”.

“It is about the ‘British’ variant,” Stepanek said. “If a majority of the population has already had it, thank God. If not, then the situation can become very dramatic.”

(Reporting by Robert Muller; Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Czech field hospital shut due to staff shortages even as pandemic rages

PRAGUE (Reuters) – An unused military field hospital in Prague will be packed up due to staff shortages even as high numbers of COVID-19 patients stretch Czech health-care facilities to the limits, officials said on Friday.

The coronavirus pandemic pushed hospitals in the Czech Republic to the brink of capacity in November and again earlier this month. The central European nation of 10.7 million people is suffering one of the world’s highest infection rates, with more than 16,000 COVID-related deaths recorded.

The army erected the field hospital on the outskirts of the capital Prague in October on the site of an exhibition ground and put the facility on standby, equipped to care for as many as 500 COVID-19 patients.

But because of a death of available staff, “we are unable to roll out the hospital in a way that makes sense,” Deputy Health Minister Vladimir Cerny told a news conference. “If we (do) have staff, it seems to be more purposeful to reinforce standard hospitals than to activate the field hospital.”

There were 5,856 COVID-19 patients in Czech hospitals as of Thursday, including 970 in intensive care – about 20% below peaks in mid-January.

But six of the country’s 14 regions reported zero or single-digit numbers of available intensive care beds. Officials have used ambulances and helicopters to move patients to less crowded hospitals while suspending non-urgent care for weeks.

With around 8,000 new infections reported every day of late, the government fears any new spike in cases from an expected spread of a more infectious British variant of the virus could overload hospital capacity.

Hospitals have also reported declining but still high numbers of infected staff – 4,047 nationwide as of Friday – and have shut down wards and repurposed others specially for COVID patients, running some with the help of soldiers and volunteers.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Michael Kahn and Mark Heinrich)

Economic clout makes China tougher challenge for U.S. than Soviet Union was – Pompeo

By Robert Muller

PRAGUE (Reuters) – China’s global economic power makes the communist country in some ways a more difficult foe to counter than the Soviet Union during the Cold War, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on a visit to the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

Pompeo called on countries around Europe to rally against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which he said leverages its economic might to exert its influence around the world.

“What’s happening now isn’t Cold War 2.0,” Pompeo said in a speech to the Czech Senate. “The challenge of resisting the CCP threat is in some ways much more difficult.”

“The CCP is already enmeshed in our economies, in our politics, in our societies in ways the Soviet Union never was.”

The Cold War reference came after China’s ambassador to London last month warned that the United States was picking a fight with Beijing ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November.

U.S.-China ties have quickly deteriorated this year over a range of issues including Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus; telecoms-equipment maker Huawei; China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea; and the clampdown on Hong Kong.

Pompeo’s visit to the Czech Republic, part of the Soviet bloc until the 1989 democratic Velvet Revolution, marked the first stop on a swing through the region to discuss cyber and energy security.

He used the occasion to swipe at both Russian and Chinese influence and lauded officials in the central European nation of 10.7 million who took on Beijing over the past year.

He cited the Czech Republic’s efforts to set security standards for the development of 5G telecommunications networks after a government watchdog warned about using equipment made by China’s Huawei.

Pompeo and Prime Minister Andrej Babis signed a declaration on 5G security in May, but the country has not made an outright decision to ban Huawei technology. Its President Milos Zeman has been promoting closer ties with China.

Pompeo also acknowledged the chairman of the Czech Senate Milan Vystrcil, who followed through on a plan by his deceased predecessor to visit Taiwan at the end of this month, a trip that has angered China.

Pompeo said some nations in Europe would take longer to wake up to the threats, but there was a positive momentum.

“The tide has turned (in the United States), just as I see it turned here in Europe as well. The West is winning, don’t let anyone tell you about the decline of he West,” he said.

“It will take all of us… here in Prague, in Poland, in Portugal. We have the obligation to speak clearly and plainly to our people, and without fear. We must confront complex questions… and we must do so together,” he said.

(Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Michael Kahn, William Maclean)