Good evening. The Thursday, March 31 edition of Today in Slovakia is ready, providing the main news of the day in less than five minutes.
Slovakia will buy armoured vehicles from Finland
A total of 76 eight-wheeled Patria AMVXP military vehicles from Finland will strengthen the Slovak army.
Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď (OĽaNO) said that this is one of the main modernisation projects planned by the ministry.
The purchase, which includes the vehicles and ammunition, is worth €447 million. The sum will be paid gradually.
The first vehicles are expected to arrive within eight months after the contract is signed.
Naď noted the deal will impact the Slovak defence industry - the Patria company is expected s to create new jobs, either directly at partner companies or at suppliers and sub-suppliers.
PM warns Russian gas taps may be suddenly turned off
Slovakia must be prepared for Russia to suddenly cut off gas supplies to the country and plans should be drawn up to deal with such a scenario, Prime Minister Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) said after a meeting of the Security Council on March 30.
The PM cited the example of Germany which has recently issued an urgent warning of a similar scenario there for two reasons – war in Ukraine and Russian demands that European customers pay for gas in roubles.
“If we apply it to Slovak conditions, the gas utility company Slovenský Plynárenský Priemysel (SPP) would have to first purchase roubles with euros and then purchase gas from Russia's Gazprom for roubles,” he said, as quoted by TASR. “This would however increase Slovakia’s dependence on Russia, as it would then not be just energy [dependence], but also financial.”
Heger pointed out that Russia had already stopped gas flows to Europe in 2009, and noted that Slovakia’s doubts about the reliability of Russian supplies of gas are even greater following the invasion of Ukraine.
Refugees from Ukraine
- Yesterday, 2,892 people crossed the Slovak-Ukrainian border: 700 men, 1,482 women and 710 children. Since the war started, 289,216 people have crossed the border, 58,319 people requested temporary protection and 167 asked for asylum.
- People who were granted temporary protection in Slovakia should announce any change of their address of residence in Slovakia at the administrative offices of towns and villages and not at the Foreigners' Police, it has been announced. This follows a legislative amendment which is valid as of March 30, 2022.
- 1,349 refugees from Ukraine have already found a job in Slovakia. In most cases, the posts are in western Slovakia – Trenčín, Nitra, Trnava and Bratislava. About 600 people are working in production as assemblers or machine operators, while about a hundred are employed in cleaning or as kitchen help. Requests for emergency benefit payments have been made for almost 20,000 adults and children.
- People in the large-capacity centre for refugees in Bratislava at Bottova Street helped 3,226 people in the first three days since it opened, according to the city's official website. The centre can handle 2,500 a day.
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Photo of the day
The strengthening of NATO's Eastern Flank in the form of the creation of enhanced forward presence and the deployment of battle groups is only a beginning, head of Slovak diplomacy Ivan Korčok (SaS nominee) said after an informal meeting of the foreign ministers of NATO's eastern wing, a platform known as the Bucharest Nine (B9) in Bratislava.
"It's a very important step, it's a critical step, but when we look at what the Russian Federation is doing to Ukraine, we really only have to see it as a start," Korčok said.
Feature story for today
The idea that Ukrainians coming to Bratislava would be symbolically accommodated in Hotel Kyjev is not new, said Rostislav Novák, executive director of the Lordship company, which owns the hotel. Similar ideas were also put forward by its shareholders.
However, the move has been rejected. “The building is currently not suitable for accommodation, not even for a temporary stay,” Novák said.
In other news
- 7,334 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 15,828 PCR tests performed on Wednesday. The number of people in hospitals is 2,086 people. 18 more deaths were reported on Wednesday. The vaccination rate stands at 51.27 percent, 2,819,931 people have received a first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
- Bratislava authorities approved a proposal that part of Godrova Street where the Russian Embassy is located will be renamed Boris Nemtsov Street, after the murdered critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- Interior Minister Roman Mikulec (OĽaNO) survived a no-confidence vote. Only 46 out of 102 MPs present voted for his removal from office. 51 MPs were against. MPs from the coalition Sme Rodina party did not show up for the vote, which was linked to what opposition parties have claimed was mismanagement of the refugee crisis at the border. Meanwhile, Marián Dritomský, chair of the department of crisis management at the ministry, announced that he will resign.
- Štefan Hamran will officially take over as head of the Police Corps as of April 1. Since September 16, 2021 he has been serving as interim police president. Interior Minister Roman Mikulec (OĽaNO) appointed Hamran on March 31.
- More than 73,000 people died in Slovakia last year, which is the highest absolute number since 1919. The excess mortality rate stood at 37 percent last year. Circulatory system disorder was the most common cause of death, followed by Covid. (Statistics‘ Office)
- Most of the country's adult population (61 percent) supports Slovakia’s membership in NATO, according to a poll by the Focus agency at the end of February.
- A top Pentagon official told lawmakers Wednesday the Biden administration is working to accommodate NATO ally Slovakia’s offer to send more S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine, DefenceNews reported. Slovak Defence Ministry said in reaction to the report that there has been no specific offer for a replacement for the S-300 system. Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď said repeatedly that Patriots that are in Slovakia are only temporary replacements and that he will not send S-300 out of the country without a proper replacement.
- Economic sentiment in Slovakia improved slightly in March 2022 compared to the previous month. The seasonally adjusted economic sentiment indicator (ESI) increased by 0.8 points month-on-month, to 95.7. The improvement was due to a growth of confidence in industry and trade; on the contrary, it dropped in construction, services and consumer confidence, according to the Statistics Office.
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