Slovakia Expels 35 Russian Diplomats

File photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin. PHOTO: Sergei GUNEYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP

 

Slovakia, a member of the European Union, said Wednesday it had decided to expel 35 Russian diplomats based on information provided by intelligence services. 

The move comes a day after fellow EU countries Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland and the Czech Republic all announced the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats suspected of spying, in coordinated action taken in the shadow of Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

Other countries, including the United States and Poland, had earlier also expelled Russian diplomats.

Slovakia will “reduce the staff of the Russian embassy in Bratislava by 35,” foreign ministry spokesman Juraj Tomaga told AFP.

“We regret that following the previous expulsions of Russian diplomats in the last couple of years, the Russian diplomatic mission has not shown any interest in operating correctly in Slovakia,” he added.

Slovakia had already expelled three Russian diplomats for espionage earlier this month.

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In August 2020, Bratislava also expelled three Russian diplomats for “a serious crime,” with local media reporting a possible link with the killing of a former Chechen rebel in a Berlin park.

Two years ago, local media reports said there were up to 45 officially recognised Russian diplomats in Slovakia. It is unclear how many remain today.

AFP

Three Die In Slovakia Plane Crash

(Illustrative Purposes Only) Rescuers and experts work on the place of the Antonov-26 transport aircraft crash at Chuhuiv military airbase around 30 kilometers southeast of Kharkiv. 
SERGEY BOBOK / AFP

 

 

Three people were killed when their small plane crashed near the village of Mokry Haj in western Slovakia on Friday, the emergency services said.

The four-seater plane was registered in neighbouring Czech Republic and was flying from there when it crashed at 0840 GMT near the Czech border.

“Three people were found by members of the Fire and Rescue Service without signs of life,” a spokeswoman for the rescue service, Lena Kostalova, told AFP.

The accident occurred around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the Slovak capital Bratislava.

“After the crash, the plane burst into flames. The accident claimed three victims and it was probably a crew from the Czech Republic”, the regional police force said on Facebook.

Slovakia Imposes Overnight Curfew To Fight COVID-19

A forklift truck loads boxes containing doses of the Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus (Covid-19) from Moscow into a van for further transportation, at the International Airport in Kosice, Slovakia, on March 1, 2021. (Photo by PETER LAZAR / AFP)

 

Slovakia imposed an overnight curfew from Wednesday, the health ministry said, as the ex-communist country battles the world’s highest Covid mortality rate.

Slovaks will not be allowed out of their homes between 8:00 pm and 5:00 am, according to a government decree.

During the day, Slovaks are being asked to stay in their homes with some exceptions, including medical visits, going to work and walks in nature or with pets.

The curfew applies until March 19 but may be extended.

The EU country of 5.4 million has the world’s highest rate of Covid deaths, with 24 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days, according to an AFP tally.

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The high rate “is due to many factors, Slovakia has made several mistakes,” Doctors’ Trade Union Association chairman Peter Visolajsky told AFP earlier.

“The lockdown was introduced too late and it is not sufficiently monitored. Also, this mortality rate is caused by the overall bad condition of Slovak healthcare,” Visolajsky said.

The expert said that, rather than adopting more restrictions, better enforcement of those already in place “could reduce the number of infections”.

Slovakia on Monday became the second country in the EU after Hungary to receive a shipment of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines after ordering two million of the jabs.

Slovakia has also sent 10 patients for treatment in neighbouring Poland and is hosting a medical team from Romania after appealing to the EU for assistance.

AFP

Trial Of Suspected Slovak Journalist’s Killer To Commence In January

Slovak businessman Marian Kocner, suspected of ordering the 2018 assassination of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova, arrives for the start of his trial at court

 

A long-awaited trial of Slovak businessman Marian Kocner, suspected of ordering the 2018 assassination of an investigative journalist and his fiancee, will go ahead next month, a court ruled Thursday, rejecting the defence’s call for a postponement.

Relatives of the victims — Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova — were present for the pre-trial hearing, coming face-to-face with the millionaire property developer for the first time.

Kocner, 56, wore a bulletproof vest and a helmet as he arrived at the Special Criminal Court, watched by riot police.

Three of his four co-defendants, Alena Zsuzsova, Tomas Szabo and Miroslav Marcek, also appeared in the court in Pezinok, a town some 20 kilometres (12 miles) outside the capital Bratislava.

Zoltan A., who allegedly acted as an intermediary, has made a plea bargain pending court approval and was not present. He may be tried separately.

Journalist Kuciak had been investigating Kocner’s business activities when he and Kusnirova were gunned down at home near Bratislava in a gangland-style hit in February 2018.

The double homicide triggered mass anti-government protests that forced then-premier Robert Fico to resign and paved the way for the election of liberal anti-corruption activist Zuzana Caputova as president in March.

Prosecutors have charged Kocner with ordering Kuciak’s killing.

Kocner’s lawyer, Marek Para, claimed he had not received the complete file to prepare the defence case and asked that the trial be postponed.

But the Slovak court concluded that “the accused and other parties in the case have been informed correctly and in enough time to read the results of the inquiry carefully,” judge Ruzena Sabova said, ordering the trial to begin on January 13, 2020.

– ‘No emotion on their faces’ –

“I didn’t see any emotion on their faces,” Kusnirova’s mother told reporters afterward of the accused. “They didn’t want me to look into their eyes. When they did look at me, their expression was blank.”

According to the 93-page indictment, which was leaked to local media, Kocner failed to find “any dirt” on the journalist to discredit him, which led the accused “to decide to get rid of Jan Kuciak physically and thus prevent further disclosure of his (Kocner’s) activities”.

If convicted, Kocner faces a minimum of 25 years in jail but could be imprisoned for life, Jana Tokolyova, a spokeswoman for the special prosecutor’s office, told AFP earlier.

Kocner, who is also under investigation for his role in several cases of suspected fraud, has a reputation for hostility towards journalists.

In 2017, he told a news conference that he planned to create a website to publish details on journalists’ private lives, according to the SME daily.

He threatened Kuciak and his family during a recorded telephone conversation, the audio of which was released by the journalist’s online employer, aktuality.sk.

Investigators have revealed that Kocner exchanged thousands of messages with senior government officials from the ruling Smer-SD party.

The former prime minister and Smer chairman Robert Fico blamed the opposition and the media for linking his party to Kocner, telling reporters that their coverage against the party was “turning into a kind of jihad”.

Fico remains the party leader and is widely seen as still pulling the strings.

Bratislava-based analyst Pavol Babos told AFP that “Robert Fico is definitely losing coalition potential” in the lead-up to a February general election.

“I cannot imagine political parties entering into a coalition with Smer-SD,” Babos said.

Support for Smer-SD has dropped to a historic low of around 20 percent, but it is still poised to win the poll.

AFP

Five Die In Gas Explosion In Slovakia

This handout picture made available by the Slovak Police on December 6, 2019 shows the emergency services working at the scene of a gas explosion in an apartment building in Presov, eastern Slovakia.  HO / Slovak Police / AFP

 

At least five people died in a gas explosion that rocked a high-rise apartment building in eastern Slovakia on Friday, police and firefighters said. 

“The blast followed by a fire affected four or five floors” of the 12-storey building, firefighters told local media, adding that the building was in danger of collapsing.

The blast in the eastern Slovak town of Presov, 410 kilometres (254 miles) from the capital Bratislava, took place around mid-day Friday.

Firefighters were evacuating a unknown number of people from the building, local police said in a post on their official Facebook page.

AFP

At Least 13 Dead In Slovakia Bus Crash – Fire Service

 

At least 13 people died and 20 were injured when a bus crashed into a truck in western Slovakia on Wednesday, the fire service told AFP.

“I can confirm the death of 13 people and 20 injuries in an accident near Nitrianske Hrnciarovce where a bus and a truck collided,” said Zuzana Farkasova, spokeswoman for Slovak firefighters and rescuers.

Rescuers said on their Facebook page they expected the number of casualties to increase.

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“Some 30 firefighters are at the scene to help the injured,” they added.

The accident occurred on the outskirts of the Nitra city, a regional capital some 80 kilometres (50 miles) east of Bratislava.

Farkasova said police helicopters had been deployed.

Slovakia was hit by heavy rain on Wednesday.

Moore Keeps Wales Euro Hopes Afloat In Slovakia Draw

Slovak players celebrate scoring during the UEFA Euro 2020 Group E qualification football match Slovakia v Wales in Trnava, Slovakia on October 10, 2019. VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP

 

Former lifeguard Kieffer Moore scored on his international debut as Wales drew 1-1 with Slovakia on Thursday as Ryan Giggs’ side stayed afloat in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Moore headed home in the 25th minute in Trnava before Slovakia deservedly levelled early in the second period through Juraj Kucka.

The result left Wales with seven points in Group E, six behind leaders Croatia and three back from Slovakia but they do have the luxury of a game in hand and a better head-to-head record over the Slovaks.

Moore, a towering 6ft 5in (1.96m) centre-forward who plays his club football with Wigan in the English secod tier, opened the scoring in the 25th minute.

The 27-year-old rose unmarked just outside the six-yard box to head in from a pinpoint cross from Manchester United’s Daniel James out on the left.

James had been picked out by a raking crossfield pass from Gareth Bale.

Just moments earlier, Bale, who came into the game with fresh doubts over his future at Real Madrid, had headed against the crossbar.

Bale has a liking for Slovakia. His first international goal goal came at home to the same opponents in 2006.

He had also been on target against them during a 2-1 win at Euro 2016.

For Moore, it was an international debut to remember. Just six years ago, he was playing non-league football and working as a lifeguard to make ends meet.

Wales thought they should have had a penalty as the opening period closed but defender Norbert Gyomber’s clumsy sliding challenge on Jonny Williams was deemed legitimate by the referee.

Slovakia had some of the best opportunities in the early exchanges.

Robert Mak cleverly created space in the penalty area but teenage defender Ethan Ampadu blocked the drive.

Mak again had a sight of goal as half-time approached before full-back Connor Roberts came to the rescue.

The home side did eventually pull level eight minutes into the second half.

Wales only half-cleared a cross and with time to set himself midfielder Kucka unleashed a fierce left-foot volley from 20 yards which left goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey floundering.

Slovakia continued to pile on the pressure with Mak again denied by a block before Hennessey needed to dive at full stretch to push away a drive from the impressive Parma star Kucka.

As time ticked away, Gyomber was red-carded for a lunge on Moore before Bale, already on a yellow card, ended the game shaking off a knock picked up in a crude, late challenge on Milan Skriniar.

AFP

Australian Open: Serena Williams Through To Fourth Round

Serena Williams, Australian OpenSerena Williams has beaten fellow American Nicole Gibbs to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.

The world number two won 6-1 6-3 in 63 minutes on Saturday.

She is chasing a 23rd Grand Slam singles title.

The 35-year-old six-time champion will play Czech’s Barbora Strycova, who also beat France’s Caroline Garcia 6-2 7-5.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova came through a dramatic match to beat Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 6-3.

She goes on to face Britain’s Johanna Konta, who trashed Caroline Wozniaki 6-3 6-1.

Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni also advanced to the last 16 for the first time with a 3-6 6-2 6-3 win over Greece’s Maria Sakkari.

Wayne Rooney Named On The Bench Against Slovenia

England-Wayne-RooneyEngland is set to drop Captain Wayne Rooney to the bench for Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Slovenia.

In order to prevent last-minute injuries, Manager Gareth Southgate would leave the 30-year-old English forward out of the starting 11.

Southgate would address the press in Slovenia at 18:30 BST on Monday.

Former England’s national team manager, Sam Allardyce, had described Rooney as the right choice to lead the team.

Coach Allardyce said that the Manchester United skipper was hugely respected by his peers and has enjoyed the responsibility as captain.

Rooney is England’s record goal scorer and took on the armband from Steven Gerrard in 2015.

Rooney Is Right Choice To Lead England – Allardyce

Sam-Allardyce-Wayne-Rooney-EnglandEngland’s national team manager, Sam Allardyce, says Wayne Rooney is the right choice to lead the team.

Coach Allardyce said that the Manchester United skipper was hugely respected by his peers and has enjoyed the responsibility as captain.

“You would hope the captain would make a decision on the pitch if he felt it needed to (be made).

“For me, that’s the captain’s role. It’s a big responsibility at club level and even more so at international level. First and foremost lead by example.

“It’s all about the personality. Can you handle the responsibility of being captain? I think he has enjoyed the responsibility. Some players don’t want that responsibility,” BBC quoted the 61-year-old as saying.

Rooney is England’s record goal scorer and took on the armband from Steven Gerrard last year.

The England squad is preparing for Sunday’s opening 2018 World Cup qualifier in Slovakia.

Slovakia Assumes EU Presidency

EU Presidency, Slovakia, European UnionSlovakia will assume the six-month rotating presidency of the EU on Friday, as the bloc faces unprecedented pressure following the UK’s decision to leave it.

This is the first presidential stint for Slovakia, which joined the EU in 2004.

Earlier, Prime Minister Robert Fico said the EU will have to “redefine” unsuccessful policies, particularly on immigration.

But analysts say the Slovak agenda, which also includes reforming the European Union’s single market, will be eclipsed by the fallout from Brexit.

Slovakia and the other so-called Visegrad states – Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – are calling for more powers to be returned to EU capitals and a reduction in the role of the executive European Commission in Brussels.

Euro 2016: England Draw Slovakia To Finish Second

Euro-2016-England-SlovakiaEngland have played a goalless draw with Slovakia to finish second in Group B of the on-going Euro 2016 championships in France.

The English have also qualified for the knockout phase of the competition behind Wales who beat Russia 3-0 in their final match.

Wales top the group with six points ahead of England on five, one ahead of Slovakia who could possibly reach the last 16 as one of the best third-placed teams.

England, who made six changes from the side that started their 2-1 win over Wales, dominated the first half as Jamie Vardy missed a good chance to put them ahead.

They continued to enjoy the lion’s share in possession of the game after the half time but there were few clear opportunities they could not utilise.