News digest: PM misses train to Kyiv, activists bring tractor to move out Russian spies

Covid situation improving but set to worsen again. Ministers OK major bill on aid to refugees and other war-related issues. Ukrainian kids gradually placed in Slovak schools.

(Source: SME.sk / Hej,ty)

Good evening. This is the Wednesday, March 16, 2022 edition of the Today in Slovakia daily news digest. Read the main news from Slovakia in less than five minutes. You can sign up for the Today in Slovakia newsletter free of charge here.

Heger remains behind, cites security risks

The risky train ride taken by the leaders of the Czech, Polish and Slovenian governments made headlines around the world. In Slovakia, it mostly provoked questions about why PM Eduard Heger didn't go with them.

“The PM consulted with security units regarding this journey and they literally did not recommend it,” the press department of Heger's office offered by way of explanation.

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"I regret that some people take it as a disappointment, but I cannot turn back time. I stress once again that Slovakia continues to have a strong attitude towards Ukraine," Heger told the press ahead of Wednesday's regular cabinet session. He admitted that if given the chance again, he would probably "take it into consideration better."


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"Lex Ukraine" mostly about refugees

As of Wednesday morning, more than 220,000 people crossed the border from Ukraine to Slovakia, the police reported. Nearly 8,000 arrived between Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning. About 31,000 have requested temporary protection, while 154 were reported to have requested asylum.

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The Slovak Spectator has put together the essential information needed by people coming from Ukraine during and after their arrival to Slovakia.

The cabinet ministers have passed a set of legislative proposals that they branded "lex Ukraine," related to the war in Ukraine and particularly the arrival of large numbers of refugees from the war-torn country to Slovakia. The bill is now heading to parliament, where it should be debated in a fast-tracked procedure.

As part of the bill, those who provide accommodation to people fleeing Ukraine will receive a financial contribution of €500 to €1,250 per month, depending on the number of rooms provided. The financial contribution, first proposed by Finance Minister Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) shortly after the war started, should be paid through municipalities.

The proposed bill also grants people with temporary protection the right to health care, allows for the export of medicines as humanitarian aid, and allows Ukrainian refugees to pass an internship in all health care jobs.

Related article Want to help Ukrainians? Here's how you can do it Read more 

More news about refugees in Slovakia:

  • Slovakia is prolonging temporary protection status until March 2023, three months longer than originally planned. Temporary protection will also be open to people who are not Ukrainian citizens, if they had asylum, international protection or permanent residence in Ukraine, and had to flee the war. Zuzana Števulová of the Human Rights League explained that this aligns with the rules for temporary protection in Slovakia with the decision of the EU Council from two weeks ago. (Sme)
  • Slovakia will request more humanitarian aid from international organisations and states that are not members of the EU mechanism of civil protection, the government decided. The means that Slovakia has at its disposal and that it has received so far are not sufficient for the country to handle the emergency. (TASR)
  • The government has approved food aid for Ukraine and refugees from Ukraine, worth €243,444. (TASR)
  • All citizens of Ukraine in Slovakia are eligible for a free Covid-19 vaccine.
  • The police recommend that refugees handle their registration and paperwork at large-capacity centres, where waiting times are shorter. All departments of the Foreigners' Police, which act as Slovakia's immigration offices, are available 24/7. (SITA)
  • Some 1,000 children and teenagers from Ukraine have found a place in Slovak schools, from kindergartens to secondary schools, since February 24, the education minister reported. The biggest interest is reported in primary schools in the Bratislava Region.

Covid cases set to go up, not due to refugees

When Russia invaded Ukraine, the peak of the Omicron wave in Slovakia had already passed. State authorities and volunteers are now focused on the Slovak-Ukrainian border, which has witnessed more than 220,000 refugees streaming across since the war started.

But observers are warning people that the pandemic is still far from over. In fact, a new uptick in cases is expected in the coming weeks. This new wave has two causes, according to mathematician Richard Kollár, a leading observer of the pandemic in Slovakia – but he stresses that the arrival of Ukrainian refugees in Slovakia is not one.

More on the coronavirus in Slovakia

  • 11,528 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 20,047 PCR tests performed on Tuesday. The number of people in hospitals is 2,435 people. 30 more deaths were reported on Tuesday. The vaccination rate is at 51.25 percent, 2,818,529 people having received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • The Health Ministry reports that the Covid-related situation in Slovakia is calmer now. Quarantine rules for schools have been scrapped. Education Minister Branislav Gröhling (SaS) said that this week was the last time schools reported the numbers of Covid-positive kids and kids undergoing online education. (TASR)

Photo of the day

The Peace to Ukraine (Mier Ukrajine) initiatives parked a tractor in Ukrainian colours in front of the Russian Embassy in Slovakia. "We need to move the Russian diplomats from here the way Ukrainian farmers do it. Simply tow them away with a tractor," Marián Kulich of the intiative said as quoted by Denník N daily.


Featured story for today

Dmytro Savchenko is a Ukrainian dentist, who has served in the military hospital in the city of Rivne in north-western Ukraine since the war started. He teaches soldiers, police officers and civilians how to drag the wounded after a shooting.

"It's not like in a movie, that someone runs and throws the wounded person across their shoulder," he said. The most difficult thing is deciding whom to help and who needs to be left behind.

Related article Those who have accepted the possibility that they might die no longer go to shelters Read more 

In other news

  • Economy Minister Richard Sulík (SaS) confirmed that another supply of nuclear fuel from Russia landed in Bratislava on March 16. It is the second time since Slovakia closed its skies to Russian planes that a Volga Dnepr Airlines cargo plane transported nuclear fuel from Russia to Slovakia. Sulík admitted that the government is considering alternative suppliers, although options are scarce.
  • MPs failed to open the unscheduled session initiated by the opposition Smer party. Smer wanted the parliament to pass a statement on the risks to the strategic energy interest of Slovakia, which would say that halting gas and oil supplies from Russia would damage Slovakia economically and socially. (TASR)
  • The court took the former deputy rector of the Armed Forces Academy into custody, who faces accusations of spying for Russia. The reason for custody is the concern that he might continue his criminal activities, the Specialised Criminal Court stated. The accused filed a motion against the ruling.
  • The investigative committee of the Russian Federation (Sledkom) is investigating the case of an unknown offender who painted the Slavín war memorial in Bratislava in yellow and blue. (TASR)
  • A fire that broke out in the Bratislava-Petržalka hospital on the night from Tuesday to Wednesday claimed the life of one patient. The fire started shortly after midnight in one of the patient rooms in the traumatology department. (TASR)
  • The rusty colour of the Slaná River in eastern Slovakia is worrying locals. The Nižná Slaná municipality is calling for a solution before an ecological disaster occurs.

If you have suggestions on how this news overview can be improved, you can reach us at editorial@spectator.sk.

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