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Zeman promotes new generals including first woman

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Prague, May 8 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman promoted 11 military, police and fire corps officers and four WWII veterans to the rank of general yesterday, including the chief-of-staff’s adviser Lenka Smerdova as the first woman with the rank of general in the country’s history.

Smerdova, 52, heads the recruitment section of the Czech military. In the past, she became the military’s first woman-colonel.

The promoted officers include Prison Service director Petr Dohnal, whose promotion the cabinet proposed last October, but Zeman did not meet the request then.

He gave no reason for his decision, but speculations had it that he reacted to Justice Minister Robert Pelikan’s approach to the Tibetan Dalai Lama’s visit to Prague.

Similarly, Zeman promoted Dohnal’s deputy Simon Michailidis to the rank of general today, though he refused to do so last October.

The four veterans awarded for heroism and promoted to higher ranks include Emil Bocek, one of the last surviving Czech pilots who fought with RAF in wartime and whom Zeman promoted from the rank of brigadier general to major general.

The other war veterans were promoted from the rank of colonel to brigadier general. They are the Eastern front fighter Vaclav Kuchynka and RAF pilots Pavel Vransky and Miroslav Antonin Luskutin.

Liskutin, who lives in Britain, could not attend the ceremony.

The other new generals from among the military are, apart from Smerdova, Czech air force deputy commander Petr Hromek, Communication and Information Systems Agency director Frantisek Ridzak and ground forces deputy commander Ivo Strecha.

The fresh-promoted police, customs officers and firefighters are Deputy Police President Petr Petrik, Prague police director Milos Trojanek, Customs Authority General Director Milan Poulicek, Fire Corps deputy general director Josef Slavik and Plzen fire corps director Frantisek Pavlas.

At the close of the ceremony, Zeman told Smerdova that the Czech military, in which women make up 13 percent of the staff, may see another of its women promoted to general.

Zeman also said countries should not try to save money on defence spending.

He said Prague spent 2 percent of GDP on defence between 1998 and 2002, when he was prime minister.

“No one boasted of it, all considered it a matter of course, though the economic situation was more complicated than now,” Zeman said, adding that he does not understand why debates are not being led on whether and when the country will attain the limit again.

The 2-percent defence spending has been demanded by NATO. The Czech annual defence spending has stood at about 1 percent of GDP in recent years. The present government pledged to raise it to 1.4 percent by 2020. The 2-percent limit may be attained by 2025, Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) said previously.


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