News digest: Ex-spy boss acquitted of corruption charges, police chief out

Several protests to be held on national holiday. Another proposal restricting abortions comes to parliament. More in today’s digest.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. The Tuesday, August 31, 2021 edition of Today in Slovakia is ready with the main news of the day in less than five minutes. We wish you a pleasant read.

Former intelligence service head acquitted of charges

In an unexpected move, the General Prosecutor’s Office stepped into two corruption cases on the last day of August, dropping the charges. It applied paragraph 363 of the Penal Code, which allows for the extraordinary intervention of the general prosecutor.

As a result, ex-director of the Slovak Information Service (SIS) intelligence agency Vladimír Pčolinský, detained in March of this year, is no longer facing suspicions of accepting bribes worth thousands of euros, and was even released from custody.

The decision was made by First Deputy General Prosecutor Jozef Kandera, after General Prosecutor Maroš Žilinka recused himself from the case due to his past links to Pčolinský. It came as a surprise to some, especially because the investigator proposed pressing charges, and the courts repeatedly rejected Pčolinský’s requests to be released from custody.

At the same time, Kandera dropped the charges against businessman Zoroslav Kollár.

Both Žilinka and Pčolinský were Sme Rodina nominees for their posts.

Several politicians, including cabinet ministers and President Zuzana Čaputová, now expect the General Prosecutor’s Office to explain the decision in detail.

On the same day, Žilinka dropped charges against three people, including Penta financial group co-founder Jaroslav Haščák, pertaining to the Gorilla case.

Police Corps president resigns from post and police

Later on Tuesday, acting police chief Peter Kovařík announced that he was leaving the top post and the force. He justified the decision by citing the ongoing charges of abusing his powers as a public official and disrupting justice, brought against him by the Bratislava Regional Prosecutor’s Office last week. They concern Kovařík's order to halt an operation during which some cooperating witnesses accused of perjury were to be detained.

“I can’t imagine my future as a police chief who is being prosecuted,” Kovařík told the press.

He could not say when exactly he will depart, but proposed the interior minister to let him leave after September 15, i.e. after the visit of Pope Francis.

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Coronavirus and vaccination news

  • 132 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 6,779 PCR tests performed on August 30. The number of people in hospitals has increased to 93 people. The vaccination rate is at 43.52 percent; 2,393,402 people have received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • Altogether 23 districts will be in the orange tier as of next Monday, September 6, meaning stricter rules will apply (such as stricter limits for events where other than fully vaccinated people are allowed, a limit of one person per 15 square metres in shops and restaurant interiors closed to unvaccinated and untested people). These are namely the districts of Bánovce nad Bebravou, Bardejov, Brezno, Bytča, Dolný Kubín, Gelnica, Ilava, Kežmarok, Košice I.-IV., Košice-okolie, Kysucké Nové Mesto, Nové Mesto nad Váhom, Nové Zámky, Poprad, Rožňava, Trebišov, Trenčín, Tvrdošín, Vranov nad Topľou, and Žiar nad Hronom.
  • Slovakia is wrapping up the administration of the unlicensed Russian vaccine Sputnik V. The last people were expected to receive their second shots on Tuesday.
  • The representatives of 21 organisations and associations launched an initiative called Let’s Choose Schools and Activities for Children and Youth, proposing to change the pandemic rules for children. For example, they want to shorten the self-isolation of children (currently 14 days or until the receiving of a negative test result).A group of experts and epidemiologists who advise the government will meet on Thursday (September 2) to discuss potential changes to the alert system, known as the Covid automat in Slovak. If approved, the modification can become effective as soon as next week, Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO) admitted.

Picture of the day

Slovakia has two more medals from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Its representatives dominated the men’s C4 time trial, with paracyclist Patrik Kuril taking the gold and Jozef Metelka winning the silver.

Feature story for today

Only 7 percent of Slovakia’s marginalised Roma communities have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

The state, self-governing provinces and individual hospitals and clinics do regularly venture into these communities in mobile vaccination units, but they often encounter fear and mistrust. As autumn approaches, there are fears that these communities will become hotbeds for the Delta variant of Covid-19. Besides low vaccination rates, a key reason for this are poor living conditions, bad hygiene, overcrowded habitations and difficulties or inability to remain quarantined.

Someone faints, everyone else leaves. Roma are often scared of vaccination Read more 

In other news

  • Several protest gatherings will take place in Bratislava and Košice tomorrow, when the country marks a national holiday, Constitution Day. In the capital, events will take place in front of the parliament and later Freedom Square, while in Košice, protesters are expected to arrive to the Constitutional Court. The latter protest was originally said to be organised by the opposition party Smer and the far-right Republika movement, but recent reports suggest that there will be two separate events.
  • MPs again failed to open an unscheduled session where the opposition wanted to vote on the departure of Interior Minister Roman Mikulec (OĽaNO) from the post. It was postponed to an ordinary parliamentary session that starts on September 16.
  • The cabinet approved at its August 31 session an action plan for the implementation of the Strategy of the Adaptation of Slovakia to Climate Change. The document specifies 169 tasks to be completed by 2027 to moderate the effects of climate change.
  • OĽaNO MP Anna Záborská is ready to submit another proposal to restrict access to abortions, prolonging the time between requesting and performing an abortion to 72 hours and banning any promotion of abortions. At the same time, she proposes some benefits for pregnant women, including cheaper car registration for multi-member families.
  • Bratislava-based carmaker Volkswagen Slovakia will suspend the production of SUV vehicles in all three shifts on Thursday (September 2) and Friday (September 3), due to the lack of semiconductor components. The production of small city vehicles should not be affected.
  • The German company Vaillant will build a new plant for ecological heat pumps worth €120 million in Senica (Trnava Region), while creating jobs for 900 people.
  • The cabinet approved investment aid for the companies Schaeffler Kysuce and MSK Matec Slovakia. They will receive nearly €6 million in total in the form of tax relief, in return for creating 75 new jobs.
  • BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting a six-hour all-night programme of Slovak composers and performers on September 1, starting shortly after midnight. The programme will also be available on the BBC Radio 3 website after the live broadcast.

One last note: As September 1 is a national holiday in Slovakia, shops in Slovakia (with some exceptions) will be closed tomorrow. Fuel stations, pharmacies or services will be in operation.

More on

Delta will fine the unvaccinated Read more 

These beloved hills bring Slovakia’s landscape to life Read more 

One of the best WWII tanks in the world will undergo full restoration Read more 

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