News digest: Slovakia is one step closer to the arrival of NATO troops

Evacuation trains to Ukraine launched. Slovakia to prosecute Russian crimes in Ukraine. Only face coverings will remain mandatory.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Catch up on the main news of the day in less than five minutes with the Wednesday, March 9, 2022 edition of Today in Slovakia.

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Cabinet approves the arrival of NATO troops

2,100 soldiers from six countries – the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States – might start arriving in Slovakia since mid-March as part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence.

In addition, defence technology, such as the Patriot air protection missile system and the Sentinel radars, will be brought.

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This stems from the proposal submitted by the Defence Ministry, which the cabinet approved on March 9. The proposal will still have to be passed in the parliament.

“It’s the biggest step for Slovakia’s defence since the country became independent,” said Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď (OĽaNO), adding that he does not expect any problems during the parliamentary discussion.

The NATO troops and technology will remain in Slovakia until necessary.

Slovakia on Polish MiG proposal

The Polish government declared on March 8 that it was ready to move its MiG-29s to the military base in Ramstein, Germany, and place them at the disposal of the US troops there. They in turn asked the Americans to provide their used fighter jets with similar parameters; Poland is ready to agree on the conditions to purchase these jets.

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The Polish government has called on the NATO countries that also operate MiGs to do the same.

The United States, however, called Poland’s request “a surprise offer.”

“These ongoing consultations are the subject of non-public talks directly between allies, and they definitely should not be communicated through injudicious press releases,” Slovakia’s Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď (OĽaNO) reacted when asked about the Polish call on March 8.

The Ukrainian government has been pushing for NATO to introduce a no-fly zone over Ukraine, or at least provide fighter jets to the Ukrainian military to fight Russian aggression.

The Slovak government admitted last week that they were looking for ways to ground the MiGs, currently serviced by the Russian technicians at the Sliač military airport in central Slovakia, earlier than the planned 2023 deadline and send the Russian technicians home. However, Naď rejected the notion that Slovakia give its MiGs to Ukraine.

Before giving up the MiGs, Slovakia needs to resolve the issue of who will protect its airspace.

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More on the war in Ukraine

  • Most people in Slovakia think that Slovakia should accept refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine; more than 85 percent of Slovakia’s inhabitants support such assistance. This stems from a Focus poll conducted for the Denník N daily on 1,003 respondents, which took place between February 22 and March 1. It also showed that when people were asked on whether they would mind a refugee as a neighbour, the openness is a bit less – 71 percent said that they would not mind such a neighbour but almost 30 percent said they would mind.
  • The state-run railway passenger carrier ZSSK is launching regular evacuation trains today between Chop in Ukraine and Košice to transport people fleeing from the war; they will be in operation daily until further notice. The train will leave Chop at 10:35 and arrive in Košice at 13:00. At the same time, ZSSK launched a special website with information for Ukrainians who plan to use its trains (also in Ukrainian).
  • Slovakia will be investigating Russian crimes in Ukraine, joining countries like Lithuania, Poland, Estonia and Germany. The prosecutor of the General Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal prosecution on March 8 for the particularly serious crime of inhumanity, the particularly serious crime of using illicit means of warfare and illicit fighting, and a particularly serious crime of war injustice.
  • Twelve Slovak MEPs have signed an open letter in which they condemned the statements of far-right MEP Milan Uhrík on Russian aggression towards Ukraine, as well as a series of his disinformation posts published and circulated on social networks.
  • The Bratislava Self-Governing Region is offering help to refugees from Ukraine planning to spend longer time on its territory. The region also launched a special website with job vacancies offered by individuals, entrepreneurs and city boroughs.
  • Prešov University and Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Košice suspended cooperation with several schools and research institutes in Russia.
  • The police are investigating damage to the Soviet Army Memorial in Svidník (Prešov Region), which someone painted in blue, yellow and red. The Defence Ministry meanwhile called on people to think carefully about such behaviour. Even though it understands the outrage connected to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it does not consider the damage of memorials a proper way of expressing one’s opinion.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will receive the Alexander Dubček state award, granted by the government, which involves a financial reward equalling 25 times the average monthly nominal salary in Slovakia published by the Statistics Office for the previous calendar year. (TASR)

Coronavirus and vaccination news

  • 11,712 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 23,090 PCR tests performed on March 8. The number of people in hospitals is 2,513; and 36 more deaths were reported on Tuesday. The vaccination rate is at 51.23 percent; altogether 2,817,959 people having received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • Most currently valid pandemic restrictions and limitations, particularly those concerning capacity limits and restricted opening hours, will be dropped from next Monday, March 14. Yet, people will still be required to wear masks and FFP2 respirators at several occasions.
  • About 2,000 people have shown interest in getting vaccinated with the vaccine by Novavax, which will be administered from tomorrow, said Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský (OĽaNO nominee).

Picture of the day

The cleaning work on the Slavín memorial, painted in blue and yellow as a protest against Russian aggression towards Ukraine, have been initiated.

Feature story for today

Some Ukrainians who crossed the Slovak border when fleeing the war took their life savings with them to start a new life.

However, Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia, is good for nothing. None of the large banks in Slovakia will exchange this currency for euros.

Those Ukrainians who only have cash are at risk of remaining without money. Those who did not withdraw money but have it on a card are luckier. They can withdraw euros from most bank ATMs.

For now, the state is not helping Ukrainians who solely carry hryvnias. The Finance Ministry and National Bank of Slovakia claim that they are monitoring the situation and looking for solutions. They did not share more details.

Ukrainians bring their savings to Slovakia for nothing, as hryvnias cannot be exchanged Read more 

In other news

More on today:

I think it was the bravest cat in the world Read more 

Unwind in a 13th-century spa in the green foothills Read more 

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