News digest: Slovakia marks anniversary of Warsaw Pact invasion

Fire consumes vineyards in Bratislava, another tanker with LNG for Slovakia arrives in Croatia and the President's Office wants to lead by example by cutting its energy consumption.

(Source: SME.sk / Hej,ty)

Welcome to the last news digest of this week. Read the news for August 19, 2022 in less than five minutes.

For weekend events and news on travel and culture in Slovakia, see the latest edition of our Spectacular Slovakia newsletter.

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Extensive fires damaged part of Bratislava's wine harvest this week

Firefighters in Bratislava region were called out six times on Tuesday, August 16, to battle extensive fires, five of which broke out in the capital city’s boroughs of Rača and Nové Mesto, while another flared up in the vicinity of Modra.

Ivan Vrana, the chairman of the civic association Terroir Rača, said that it was not yet possible to estimate how much of the wine harvest was destroyed.

“Some have had their crop destroyed marginally from the neighbouring neglected vineyards, and some are significantly worse off,” Vrana told the TASR newswire.


Anniversary of the week

Czechs and Slovaks will mark 54 years since Warsaw Pact troops invaded their common state on August 21, 1968. Soviet, Polish, Hungarian, East German and Bulgarian tanks invaded Czechoslovakia to put an end to the democratisation movement known as the Prague Spring. The invasion was followed by a process dubbed 'normalisation', during which reformers were purged and the country fell back into its previous totalitarian rut for another 20 years.

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Several commemorative events are scheduled to take place on Friday, August 19 and over the weekend.


Feature story for today

Post-wedding bliss of photographer who captured iconic 'bare-chested man' image lasted just days

The summer of 1968 was carefree and filled with hope in Czechoslovakia. For photojournalist Ladislav Bielik and journalist Alica Malá it was also the summer of their wedding: they got married on August 17. Only four days later, the newlyweds woke up to the roar of tanks. Like millions of their compatriots, they learned that their country had been invaded overnight by Soviet-led Warsaw Pact troops to crush the brief period of liberalisation in the then communist country.

“My father used to say bitterly that the entire Warsaw Pact came to congratulate them on their wedding,” said Peter Bielik, the younger son of Ladislav Bielik, the author of the iconic photograph 'The Bare-Chested Man in Front of the Occupier’s Tank', at the opening of the exhibition August '68, Three Days Before the Invasion.


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Picture of the day

The most senior state representatives, top Bratislava city officials and representatives of various organisations met on Šafárikovo Square in Bratislava on Friday, August 19, to commemorate the 54th anniversary of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops, laying wreaths at a memorial plaque. The commemoration ceremony was attended by President Zuzana Čaputová, Prime Minister Eduard Heger, Speaker of Parliament Boris Kollár, Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď, Mayor of Bratislava Matúš Vallo, Bratislava Old Town Mayor Zuzana Aufrichtová and representatives of Bratislava Region, the Nation’s Memory Institute, Comenius University and foreign embassies.

President Čaputová said she considers it important to remember the events related to the occupation and all the victims.

“The stories of people who were affected by August 1968 and the subsequent normalisation are still alive today,” said Čaputová, adding that especially in the context of the war in Ukraine, the events of 1968 can serve as a reminder of the current threat.


Refugees from Ukraine

  • In an effort to optimise the operation of the large-capacity registration centre for granting temporary refuge status to war refugees from Ukraine in Michalovce, the Interior Ministry is changing its opening hours. From Monday, August 22, it will switch from non-stop mode to operating from 8:00 to 20:00.
  • So far, 90,000 people from Ukraine have found temporary refuge in Slovakia, the Labour Ministry reported. Since the end of February, more than 700,000 citizens fleeing the war from Ukraine have crossed the borders of Slovakia. A significant share of the emigrants in Slovakia are children, 35,000 of whom now have temporary refuge status.

In other news

  • Prime Minister Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) will propose an amendment to the coalition agreement at Saturday's (August 20) coalition meeting, which is scheduled to address the ongoing government crisis. He conceded that some aspects of the coalition could have been be set up better during the previous two years, but expressed conference that SaS would take a step back and that the four-party coalition can continue.
  • So-called 'Tax Freedom Day' in Slovakia fell on August 19 this year according to calculations by the European Investment Centre (EIC) and the Conservative Institute of M. R. Štefánik (KI), who investigated the total tax and levy burden on citizens in Slovakia using the example of an employee earning an average wage. The total tax burden of taxes as administratively set forced payments reached 62.49 percent in relation to wage costs per employee with an average wage.
  • Employers in the industrial park in Nitra, where carmaker Jaguar Land Rover is located, are experiencing problems recruiting employees for the curious reason that public transport does not serve the area. Employees who do not have their own cars thus have no easy way to get to the park. Currently, approximately 10,000 people work there.
  • The town of Nové Zámky plans to solve its pigeon problem without killing any birds. It wants to catch them in traps, take them dozens of kilometres into the countryside and then release them. Assuming they are not homing pigeons, it is hoped they will not return to the town.
  • Another tanker, this time with a load of 80 million cubic metres of liquefied natural gas (LNG) destined for consumers in Slovakia, has arrived in Croatia. It is already the sixth such LNG shipment since the beginning of this year. Imports of LNG to Slovakia have so far reached 450 million cubic metres, state gas utility SPP reported. The total annual consumption of Slovakia is about 5 billion cubic metres.
  • The Office of the President wants to lead by example in connection with the energy and climate crisis. By the end of the summer, air-conditioning in common areas will be turned down, and the temperature in the Presidential Palace will be lowered by one to two degrees during the coming heating season. The maximum temperature for hot water heating will be reduced to 50 degrees Celsius. In addition, the Presidential Palace will be lit up each night for two fewer hours.

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

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