News digest: Soviet monument in Bratislava painted Ukrainian colours

EC President thanks Slovakia for helping Ukrainians fleeing the war. More than 79,000 refugees have crossed the Slovak-Ukrainian border since the war started.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Catch up on the main news of the day in less than five minutes with the Thursday, March 3 edition of Today in Slovakia.

Slovaks could join the war in Ukraine, but the permission process is difficult

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on people across the globe to join Ukrainians in their fight against Russia.

His call has evoked a response in Slovakia, too, but for Slovaks who would be willing to join the fight, the options are not straightforward.

Even though it is legally possible to participate in battles in another country’s territory, it takes weeks or even months to receive permission. Moreover, it is not guaranteed that those who apply will eventually obtain it.

The law on military service allows for the granting of such an exception. A volunteer first needs to address the district authority. Subsequently, the request is assessed by the Interior Ministry, and then the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Eventually, the request is sent to the head of state, which can either approve or dismiss the request.

Monument of Soviet soldiers painted blue and yellow

The police have launched an investigation after an anonymous perpetrator painted Slavín, a memorial and military cemetery for fallen Soviet troops in Bratislava, blue and yellow.

These colours represent the Ukrainian flag.

The Russian Embassy in Bratislava was outraged by the incident and has demanded the restoration of the monument to its original form.

In response, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said that Slavín being painted in the colours of the Ukrainian flag is a call of Slovak citizens on Russia to end this “nonsense war”.

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The ministry also asked the Slovak public to honour and acknowledge the friendly Russian citizens devoted to democracy and peace.

On the other hand, the ministry told the Russian Embassy in Bratislava to perceive reality.

“And the [reality] is large civic solidarity with Ukraine, which was groundlessly attacked by the Russian Federation. Besides breaching international law, the Russian Federation has also trampled on the memory of Ukrainians who fought side by side with Russians for freedom in 1945,” the ministry noted, as quoted by TASR.

Meanwhile, Mayor of Bratislava Matúš Vallo and the Bratislava Old Town borough denounced the vandalism. They called on people to focus on supporting and helping people fleeing from war.

“Some of us feel powerless and we feel urged to do something," Vallo said. "But painting Slavín is not going to help anyone.”

More on war in Ukraine

  • EC President Ursula von der Leyen visited Slovakia and thanked the country's people for helping Ukrainians fleeing the war. She also emphasised that it is important now that processes at the borders are simplified and that Ukrainians are treated equally throughout the EU so they can stay in the country or continue to other countries. The EU will offer €500 million more to assist refugees.
  • 500 applicants who speak the Ukrainian language at a C2 level applied on the biggest job-ad portal, Profesia, in February 2022. This level of language is comparable to that of a native speaker. Compared to the same period last year, this is an increase of about 130 percent.
  • Every refugee from Ukraine is guaranteed standard emergency care in Slovakia. This applies to asylum seekers, those who have applied for temporary shelter, as well as people who are just passing through the country, said Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO).
  • 38 countries including Slovakia have submitted the situation in Ukraine to The Hague for investigation over suspicions of war crimes committed by the Russian Federation.
  • If the influx of refugees from Ukraine increases, Austria is ready to help Slovakia. Aid to Ukraine and solidarity with the people driven from their homes by the war must be a priority and a joint effort, Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová stated after a phone call with her Austrian counterpart, Alexander Van der Bellen.
  • As of March 3, 6:00, more than 79,000 people have crossed the Slovak-Ukrainian border; 767 people have asked for temporary protection and 126 have requested asylum, the Interior Ministry reported.
  • The Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava suspended all common activities with Russian universities and research institutions to show its objection to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
  • Slovak operators will remove broadcasts of Russia Today and the Sputnik agency from their offers, said Culture Minister Natália Milanová (OĽaNO), referring to the EU's ordinance that has been valid since Wednesday evening.
  • Slovakia will withdraw from the International Investment Bank and the International Bank for Economic Cooperation, whose shareholders are the Russian Federation. Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria will also withdraw from both banks. The finance ministers of these countries agreed on this at the Ecofin meeting this week.
  • Despite the ongoing invasion in Ukraine, the Slovak banking sector is providing all financial services in full. According to the National Bank of Slovakia, the current situation has not affected its functioning and smooth operation. At the same time, no Slovak financial institution is subject to international sanctions.

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Photo of the day

An artist who portrays well-known personalities used 600 non-functional phones to create a two-metre-high portrait of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs. It weighs 50 kilograms.

Feature story for today

The Bratislava region is statistically one of the richest regions in the European Union, but its prosperity remains on paper, not reflecting the real situation.

As a direct consequence, Bratislava and its vicinity qualifies only for a small portion of the EU funds package allocated for Slovakia.

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

In other news

  • 11,462 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 20,218 PCR tests performed on Wednesday. The number of people in hospitals is 2,554; 44 more deaths were reported on Wednesday. The vaccination rate is at 51.23 percent, 2,817,538 people have received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • Slovakia will temporarily boost its presence in Operation EUFOR Althea. It plans to send 121 members of the Slovak Armed Forces to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The aim is to prevent the local security situation from deteriorating. Slovak troops are scheduled to stay there for 30 days, according to Martina Kovaľ Kakaščíková, a spokesperson for the Defence Ministry.
  • 10,492 people applied for a passport on March 2, which is a new record. "We have not recorded such a number of applications in our history; a similar record was set on May 23, 2012, when 7,773 citizens applied for documents," the police report said.
  • Income tax returns for the year 2021 must be submitted by the end of March and taxes also must be paid by this deadline. Tax returns can be submitted electronically. To register, you need an electronic ID card with a chip or qualified electronic signature.

Do not miss on today

The Vietnamese campaign for their rights: “We belong here” Read more  Slovakia’s potential for business centres still not fully tapped Read more 

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