News digest: EC President Von der Leyen will arrive to discuss the situation in Ukraine

Slovak Embassy in Kyiv evacuated. One of the largest disinformation websites blocked.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Welcome to the Wednesday, March 2, 2022 edition of Today in Slovakia, which brings the main news of the day in less than five minutes.

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EC president will come to discuss Ukraine

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen will arrive to Slovakia on Thursday, March 3.

She will meet with Slovak PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) to discuss the current situation in Ukraine, as he confirmed to the press.

Heger also said he is in touch with his Ukrainian counterpart Denys Shmyhal, adding the Ukrainians are grateful for Slovakia’s help and support.

“We need to realise that Ukraine has been defending itself, defending its own territory and freedom that has been breached by the Russian Federation and, unfortunately, affects innocent civilians,” he said after the March 2 cabinet session, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

He added they are communicating about further sanctions against Russia with EU member states, stressing that the country’s approach is clear in this respect.

“We need sanctions to show Vladimir Putin and Russia, as well as anybody who decides in the future to attack another democratic country with military, what awaits them,” Heger said, as quoted by TASR, adding that it is important to send a signal that we want peace, not war.

The prime minister also asked people not to panic, stressing that there is no reason for fear since we are both EU and NATO members. He called on people to show solidarity towards the Russian people, since it was Putin who started the conflict, and not ordinary people.

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Meanwhile, the cabinet approved further aid for Ukraine on Wednesday. The Economy Ministry will send 10 million litres of diesel and 2.4 million litres of aviation fuel.

The Defence Ministry has already provided humanitarian aid in the form of 1,000 hygiene packages to Ukraine, plus blankets, sleeping bags and other materials.

More on the war in Ukraine

  • The Slovak Embassy in Kyiv has been evacuated, said Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Korčok (SaS nominee) before the March 2 cabinet session. “I believe that they will succeed in getting safely home,” he added. Korčok also planned to propose, together with Interior Minister Roman Mikulec (OĽaNO), the cancellation of the visa-free agreement for diplomatic passports holders coming from the Russian Federation.
  • Low-cost airline Wizz Air has offered Ukrainian refugees 100,000 free seats on its short-distance flights. The offer will be in place during March, and will concern flights from Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania.
  • As much as 78 percent of respondents from Slovakia are satisfied with the official response of the country’s representatives who condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This stems from a recent poll titled How are You, Slovakia?, according to which most Slovaks approve of humanitarian aid and the decision to accept refugees.
  • Slovakia can still manage the monitoring of the Ukrainian border. Apart from Slovak forces, there are 50 police officers from the Czech Republic, and other countries have offered help as well. The country has also asked the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, also known as Frontex, for help.
  • The General Prosecutor’s Office has cancelled an agreement on cooperation signed by General Prosecutor Maroš Žilinka and his Russian counterpart in early January 2022 during the former’s trip to Russia.
  • The Education Ministry has prepared several measures to help children who have fled Ukraine and will attend school in Slovakia. This includes webinars and lectures for teachers, but also various documents to help integrate Ukrainian children.
  • Comenius University in Bratislava will suspend cooperation with its Russian partner institutions, including the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna. The university will not send its employees and students there, nor will it accept any employees or students from Russian partner institutions.

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Fight against disinformation has first victim

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine giving rise to disinformation, the Slovak cabinet and the parliament hastily passed an amendment to the Cyber Security Act, allowing the National Security Authority (NBÚ) to shut down sources of “malicious content.”

This means software or data that leads to cyber security incidents, fraud, the theft of data, serious misinformation and other forms of hybrid threats.

“This is a democratic country, there are some laws here, and if someone breaks them, they have to pay for it,” Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď (OĽaNO) told the Sme daily. “No matter that they label themselves ‘journalists’: we know that they are serving the interests of foreign powers.”

The NBÚ already used the new power: it blocked one of the largest disinformation websites circulating Russian propaganda on the internet, Hlavné Správy. The authority’s spokesperson Peter Habara said that they had identified “harmful activity” on the website, as reported by the TASR newswire.

Picture of the day

Slovakia commemorates the tragic explosion in the VOP Nováky military maintenance company that happened on March 2, 2007 and claimed eight lives.

Feature story for today

The majority of refugees from Ukraine have crossed into Poland. As for Slovakia, nearly 54,000 refugees crossed the border with Ukraine as of the morning of March 1. While during the first two days of the Russian invasion there were 7,500 people fleeing Ukraine, the number rose to nearly 16,000 on February 27, and there were 12,000 refugees a day later.

Vyšné Nemecké is the most frequently used border crossing between Ukraine and Slovakia, with about 7,000 people a day crossing in the past few days.

Yet, instead of the state, they are often helped by volunteers and non-governmental organisations, who say that there should also be some coordinated help from the state. Read more in a Sme daily report from the border.

Mostly individuals help refugees; state's role less apparent on Ukrainian border Read more 

In other news

  • 12,763 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 22,385 PCR tests performed on March 1. The number of people in hospitals is 2,652; and 37 more deaths were reported on Tuesday. The vaccination rate is at 51.23 percent, and 2,817,404 people have received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • Altogether 93,000 doses of the Covid vaccine by Novavax arrived in Slovakia; it will start to be administered sometime next week, said Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO nominee).
  • The pandemic situation in Slovakia seems to be improving, as there are only 13,000 positive cases on average identified daily (down by 28 percent compared to the previous week). The number of the hospitalised patients dropped from 2,700 to some 2,600, and the number of those requiring mechanical ventilation is dropping as well, according to the Health Ministry data.
  • The Constitutional Court suspended the effectiveness of the law based on which the pensions of top communist officials should be cut, adopted in June 2021. It accepted the motion submitted by a group of opposition politicians for further proceeding, and will now decide on whether the law is in compliance with the Constitution.

More on

Bratislava Region says it is not as rich as it appears, wants a bigger portion of EU funds Read more 

Reality made the disinformation war temporarily irrelevant Read more 

Trenčín Castle: Residence of the owner of 50 castles in Slovakia Read more 

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