Around Slovakia

HZDS sent non-functioning bomb
Fit Slovak women sweep European competition
Hit and run car theft
Petition protests NATO bombings
Cuckoos return early
More flood alerts in eastern Slovakia
Unattended toddlers die in fire above local Pub
French soldiers back for exercise at Lešť training area

Slovak fitness diva Iveta Chrtanova, 27, triumphed.

HZDS sent non-functioning bomb

The headquarters of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on Tomašiková Street in Bratislava received a bomb and a "threatening letter" on April 23. According to the Ministry of the Interior representatives, the letter contained "threatening text" and was accompanied by "a non-functional explosive system produced at home."
The system contained a small amount of the explosive Semtex. No arrests have been made, but a police investigation has begun.

Fit Slovak women sweep European competition

Slovak fitness diva Iveta Chrtanova successfully defended her European championship in the under-160 centimetres division on April 25 in Essen, Germany. It was the third international medal for the 27-year-old, who works out at Bratislava's Zora Fit Club. Chrtanova also won a gold in last year's world championships and a silver in the European championships.
In the over-160 centimetres division, 23-year-old Silvia Malachovská of Trnava's Fortuna Club, was crowned fitness queen in her first appearance on the international level. The triumph secured national fitness pride, as Slovak Marietta Žigalová won last year's competition.

Banská Bystrica
Hit and run car theft

Ferenc P., a Hungarian citizen from Budapest, became the victim of a bizarre car theft scheme April 22 when his dark green Ford Mondeo was stolen from along side a highway just outside of Zvolen as he stood nearby.
He was driving along the road when a red Škoda intentionally rammed into him, causing him to pull over. As he got out of the car, a second conspirator hiding in the bushes jumped out to steal the auto. The theft of the Mondeo cost its owner - the Hungarian firm General Budapesti Bisztosito over 500,000 Slovak crowns [$12,000].
According to regional police force spokesperson Marta Mandaková, the two cars then "sped away in the direction of Bratislava."

Petition protests NATO bombings

A petition protesting "the murder of innocent people and aggression against the sovereign Yugoslav State" has so far accumulated 13,103 signatures in Žilina, Civic Petition Committee spokesman Karol Zahatlan said on April 23.
The petitions, Zahatlan explained, consisted of four points, the first being a public request on behalf of Slovak citizens for the Slovak government to "contribute to the resolution of the Kosovo crisis only in a peaceful way. The petitions' remaining three points called for immediate aid for all Slovaks living in the war-torn area, the discontinuation of NATO access to Slovak air space and the official condemnation of the NATO bombing campaign.
The petition committee also announced their desire to present the signed petition to Parliamentary Chairman Jozef Migaš in person, in hopes that their efforts will call for the "repeated discussion of this issue in the Slovak Parliament," he added.

Staré Hory
Cuckoos return early

While most migratory birds annually return to Slovakia's mountain and forest regions in April, Miroslav Šaniga, researcher for the Slovak Academy of Science Forest Ecology Institute, said he finds it particularly interesting that the cuckoo (Cuculus canoris) returned three weeks earlier than normal this year. The first cuckoo-cry was heard in Staré Hory on April 10, even though the birds are not expected to return until the first of May.
The cuckoo's early return represented a general trend amongst the bird community this year, said Šaniga, who also noted that swallows (Hirundo rustica), the traditional 'earliest bird' in Slovakia, were sighted a full week ahead of schedule. Other returning birds include warblers (Hippolais icterina), flycatchers (Muscicapa), white throats (Sylvia) and butcher-birds (Lanius). The last wave of migratory birds will arive in mid-May and include quails (Coturnix coturnix) and swifts (Apus apus).

More flood alerts in eastern Slovakia

A second degree flood alert was called in the Košice region of eastern Slovakia as the water level of the Bodrag River (Košice Region) rose to 714 centimetres on April 24, said Jozef Fedorčak of the Košice fire brigade. Meanwhile, the level of the Latorica River had also increased to two centimetres shy of the second degree flood level.
As underground water levels are still high from the recent eastern Slovak floods which devastated the area in February and March, the soil cannot absorb much of the recent rainfall, which is contributing to the flood danger, Fedorčak said.
The new flooding does not bode well for the flood-ravaged areas, said Agriculture Ministry spokesperson Anna Majkutová. The Ministry's preliminary assessments totaled flood damages this year of over 472 million Slovak crowns, 415 million crowns of which struck agricultural industries.
In response to the recent rash of floods in central Europe, an international officer-staff training called Hexagrant '99 will help teach people from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Austria and Slovenia how to "organise flood preparations and flood clean-up." The meeting will take place from May 11 to 13.

Unattended toddlers die in fire above local Pub

A fire claimed the lives of a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old who had been left alone in a flat above a local pub by their 22-year-old mother Margita R., said Milan Rogoš of the Rožňava Fire Protection Department. The flat, which was being illegally occupied and had no electricity, housed a total of 12 residents.
According to Rogoš, arriving firefighters quickly realized there was a flat above the pub, but by the time the fire department arrived, the flames had already spread through one room up to the roof. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, said Rogoš, adding that the children had died from suffocation and burns.
Margarita R., who returned to the scene after midnight, was the mother of three children. The third child, a six-year-old, was with her at the time of the fire.

French soldiers back for exercise at Lešť training area

Soldiers of the French armed forces are doing a military exercise in the Slovak training area Lešť between April 6 and May 23. This is the second military training of the French Army to take place in Lest. The contingent consists of 500 soldiers of the seventh tank division, half of whom are professionals, and the other half conscripted men doing their mandatory French national service, officials reported.
Jean-Francois Carriere, commander in chief of the seventh tank division of Besancon, said at a press conference that tank crews will make use of the possibilities offered by this 14,500 hectares area chiefly for shooting practice. They cannot do such practices in France since there is not a military training area of that size. The French also welcomed a possibility to get acquainted with methods of training and combat used by the Slovak Army.

Compiled by Chris Togneri

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