In its 2016 annual report the Czech Republic’s intelligence service BIS says it has registered heightened activity by Russian and Chinese agents in the country. The Czech Republic was targeted by campaigns aimed against the EU, NATO and the Ukraine, the report says. Meanwhile Chinese agents were focused on influencing public opinion with regard to Tibet and undermining Czech Taiwanese relations.
The Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, says he has been disquieted by the arrests made during demonstrations in Russia on Monday. Mr. Sobotka said people had the right to express their views without being detained and called on the Moscow government to respect freedom of expression and assembly. Russian police arrested over 1,000 people at anti-corruption rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg, while the opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained at his home before they got underway.
Czech minister of industry Jiří Havlíček begins Monday a two-day working trip to Moscow at the hed of a 20-strong business delegation. The main focus of the trip will be a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Denis Manturov. A meeting of the regular committee for Czech economic, industrial, and technology cooperation will also take place.
During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in China, Czech President Miloš Zeman took a characteristic swipe at the media. Caught on mic just ahead of a joint press briefing with Mr. Putin, Mr. Zeman noted that there were too many journalists present and that they should be “liquidated”. While the joke raised a polite smile from Mr. Putin, it triggered a volley of negative reactions in the Czech Republic where media freedom and efforts to influence the free press are now very much in the spotlight.
Two Czechs flew on Monday from Prague to Greek to appear in court on charges of espionage. Martin Pezlar and Ivan Buchta, who are software producers, are accused of filming by military installations near Greece’s border with Turkey in 2012 for the purposes of producing a video game. The pair say they were in Greece on holiday and merely took photographs and made videos as regular tourists. Their trial is set to begin on Wednesday and they face up to 20 years if found guilty.
The Czech foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, has denied suggestions that intelligence reports produced by the Czech embassy in Damascus are at odds with the position of the country’s NATO allies on the conflict in Syria. The charge was contained in a leaked document written by Czech diplomats at NATO HQ.
The Czech foreign ministry has called on Belarus and Russia to release demonstrators detained in both countries over the weekend. Around 100 demonstrators were detained in Moscow, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny, during a protest against corruption which targeted top members of the government. In Belarus around 400 people were detained following protests in the capital, Minsk, and other main cities against the regime’s social and economic policies.
A meeting of the Permanent Control Committee on Military Intelligence will take place in the Lower House on Friday over the case of a military intelligence officer who was allegedly surveilling the villa of interior minister Milan Chovanec. The news website SeznamZpravy.cz reported on Wednesday that a military intelligence officer was arrested in Prague last week while taking photographs in the vicinity of a villa belonging to the Ministry of the Interior and used by Mr Chovanec. The head of military intelligence, Jan Beroun, has strongly denied speculation about his agents surveilling the house.