News digest: Unprecedented charges. Slovaks confess to spying for Russia

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Slovakia on Thursday. Slovak parliament greenlights the presence of NATO troops in Slovakia.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. The Tuesday, March 15 edition of Today in Slovakia is ready with the main news of the day in less than five minutes.

Slovaks charged with espionage confess to cooperation with Russian spies

Police shed light on a case that led to the expulsion of three staffers of the Russian Embassy in Bratislava.

Police arrested and charged two Slovaks for taking bribes and for espionage. They were cooperating with agents of the Russian secret service GRU. They both confessed.

One is Bohuš Garbár from Košice, who was writing for the disinformation outlet Hlavné Správy, which the National Security Authority recently banned.

The police disclosed that Garbár collected secret and top-secret information that he passed on to Russian officers, which he was paid for.

Another accused person is Pavel Bučka, former pro-rector of the Armed Forces Academy in Liptovský Mikuláš. He was in contact with GRU as well, collecting and passing on sensitive information of strategic significance.

“This information was linked to NATO and the Slovak Armed Forces,” police told the press.

Police revealed that Bučka had been cooperating with GRU the longest, from 2013 until his arrest in mid-March.

Parliament greenlights NATO soldiers' arrival

The Slovak parliament approved the arrival of NATO troops to Slovakia within the enhanced forward presence project on March 15. In total, 96 out of 134 present MPs voted for the arrival of 2,100 troops from six countries.

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The NATO troops are expected to arrive within weeks from receiving the mandate. They should strengthen Slovakia's security as the country is part of NATO's eastern flank.

Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď gave the example,that Russia may attack the airport in the western-Ukrainian city of Uzhgorod. The runway of the airport ends just 50 metres from the border with Slovakia, he said.

Moreover, Slovakia has met NATO defence spending commitment for first time.

The ministry's state secretary (deputy minister) Marcel Klimek noted that Slovakia has met its commitment to spend 2 percent of its GDP ahead of schedule, in 2020 and in 2021.

War in Ukraine

  • Border control to be strengthened by a drone system. The Interior Ministry will finance its purchase with the help of European grants, the estimated value of the contract being 1.69 million euros excluding VAT. Tenders may be submitted until April 21.
  • President Zuzana Čaputová met with volunteers from Ukraine. She said that Slovaks are watching the war in Ukraine from relative safety, but she stressed that it also raised an uncommon wave of solidarity. “If anyone thinks that they are coming here from Ukraine only with an outstretched hand, they are wrong. They are speaking for themselves and asking us to see them as people who want to be valid members of our society. They are coming with the motivation of not giving up,” President said.
  • The US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Slovakia on March 17. He will meet with Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď. The Slovak minister emphasised that this will be the first ever visit of the US Defense Secretary in Slovakia since the country joined NATO.
  • Slovak Bar Association is organising free legal consultation for refugees from Ukraine. Currently, more than 120 lawyers offer such legal aid. The list is published on the website of the association.

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Photo of the day

The Slovak team returned from the Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing with a rich medal collection thanks to Henrieta Farkašová, Alexandra Rexová and Miroslav Haraus, who won three gold and three bronze medals.

In the picture, from the left: guide Eva Trajčíková, Slovak Paraalpian skier Alexandra Rexová, Slovak Paraalpian skier Henrieta Farkašová, guide Michal Červeň, Slovak Paraalpian skier Miroslav Haraus, guide Maroš Hudík during the press conference of the Slovak Paralympic Committee after the return of the Slovak national team in Beijing, March 15, 2022, in Bratislava.

Feature story for today

The evolution of business service centres (BSCs) into centres with higher added value services completely changes the skills and qualities companies are looking for on the Slovak market.

Martin Bednár noted that the shortage of talent will not be resolved in a year or two. As the industry is maturing, though, it is a little easier to find experienced talent in Slovakia.

“Talent that was not available 10 years ago is available now," said Bednár.

Life-long education is the answer to the lack of a skilled labour force Read more 

In other news

  • 9,654 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 19,417 PCR tests performed on Monday. The number of people in hospitals is 2,476 people. 29 more deaths were reported on Monday. The vaccination rate is at 51.25 percent, 2,818,493 people having received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • The Kovo Trade Union (OZ) is determined to respond to the declining standards of living in Slovakia with a series of protests. As Emil Machyna, Chairman of the Kovo Trade Union Council, told journalists in Žilina, their protests should culminate in an all-out strike in May.
  • Yearly inflation in February grew to 9 percent. It hit the highest figure for the past seventeen years (since December 2003). In January, inflation reached 8.4 percent. According to the Statistics‘ Office, annual inflation was mainly driven by the continuing growth of food prices, up 1.6 percent m-o-m, accelerating their y-o-y growth to 9.8 percent. It is the highest annual growth since August 2008.
  • 102 people with decreased immunity applied for the fourth vaccine against Covid, NCZI announced. 67 have already received the appointment.
  • 130,000 children were unable to learn online during the pandemic, said Investment Minister Veronika Remišová (Za Ľudí). The purchase of a computer is not affordable for 110,000 households in Slovakia, endangered by poverty.
  • The Interior Ministry proposed that people who were ordered to remain in isolation by the Public Health Authority due to Covid as of September 30, be able to participate in the upcoming election.

One last note: Snowfall is expected in some districts of the Banská Bystrica Region, the Trenčín Region, the Košice Region, the Prešov Region and the Žilina Region on March 16. Even 15 centimetres of snow may fall in these areas.

Do not miss on today

Bratislava public transport to get 50 new trolleybuses Read more  Slovakia's chemical and pharmaceutical industry saw revenues grow during the second year of pandemic Read more  General Prosecutor signs memorandum about cooperation with Ukraine two months after signing it with Russia Read more 

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