This week’s release of the Czech Security Information Service’s (BIS) annual report was widely covered by Czech media and even some foreign outlets. What stood out was the considerable amount of detail that the public version contained on Russian and Chinese spying operations in the country last year. So what are these two states up to? And what are their reasons?
Czech Minister of Agriculture Miroslav Toman has prematurely ended his
five-day visit to Russia, the daily e15 reported on Thursday. Mr Toman, who
was accompanied by a delegation of Czech entrepreneurs, was supposed to fly
from Moscow to Kazan on Wednesday, but the Russian authorities prevented
him from doing so.
Mr Toman told the daily he was alarmed by the attitude of the Russian side, adding that it raised the question whether Russia was genuinely interested in cooperation with the Czech Republic.
Czech-Russian relations have been strained by a number of incidents in recent months, including the renting out of flats intended for Russian diplomats and the decision of Prague 6 to remove from its premises a statue of the controversial Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev.
Leaders of opposition parties in the Chamber of Deputies praised the work
of the BIS counterintelligence service after it released a report
highlighting the activities of disseminators of pro-Russian disinformation
in the Czech Republic.
The head of the Mayors and Independents group, Jan Farský, said, however, that the work of the counterintelligence was being complicated by President Miloš Zeman, who has repeatedly refused to promote BIS chief Michal Koudelka to the rank of general.
Mr. Zeman’s spokesperson, Jiří Ovčáček, said it was wrong of BIS to dub those with alternative outlooks as peddlers of disinformation. He said this was an attack on free speech.
The spreading of disinformation by pro-Russian activists was the most
serious threat to the constitutionality of the Czech Republic last year,
the country’s BIS counterintelligence service says in an annual report
issued on Tuesday.
In recent years such players have been agitating in an increasingly intensive and systematic way against the political structure in the Czech Republic and the country’s membership of the EU and NATO, the report states.
The report says those circulating pro-Moscow disinformation tend to be from various nationalist and populist movements and include parties and individuals. Some of them were previously active in the domestic anti-immigrant movement.
BIS also said that China was intensifying its espionage activities in the Czech Republic, with all of it main intelligence services in operation here in 2018.
China has targeted its activities at the academic community, the security forces and the state administration and has sought to recruit Czechs as agents, the report says.
China has lately been trying to address and recruit Czech intelligence
agents, Ladislav Šticha, spokesperson for the Czech Republic’s
counterintelligence service (BIS) said in a debate programme on Czech
Television on Sunday.
Mr. Šticha also said the Chinese secret services were particularly interested in information related to the industry. He said they were trying to establish contact with scientists, academics, but also with politicians.
In October this year, BIS director Michal Koudelka warned against China’s activities in the Czech Republic, calling the Russian and Chinese spy services the biggest long-term threat to the country.
The Office of the President invited pro-Russian activists from the Crimean
Tatar group Kyrym birligi (Crimean Unity) to an event at Prague Castle on
Monday marking the anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia, news
site DeníkN reported. The activists later wrote on Facebook that President
Miloš Zeman had recognised the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory of
Crimea as being part of Russia.
Mr. Zeman’s spokesman did not deny the activists had been asked to the event but said the president continued to regard the annexation of Crimea as unlawful.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Prague criticised the invitation of the activists to Prague Castle. The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Tomáš Petříček, told DeníkN he would not invite them to events organised by his office.
The Russian Embassy in Prague has denied that the information provided
earlier on Monday by Czech civilian counterintelligence (BIS) Director
Michal Koudelka, who said that Czech security organs had uncovered and
broken up an FSB intelligence operation in the country, is in any part
The intelligence chief described the embassy as one of the sources of funding for a Russian operation in the country, which used a web of servers to attack targets in the Czech Republic and its allies.
Last year the Czech authorities broke up a Russian spy network operating in the country, the head of the BIS counter-intelligence service, Michal Koudelka, told MPs on Monday. The FSB spy ring – financed directly by Moscow and the Russian Embassy – was uncovered by BIS and the Czech Republic’s national organised crime unit. I discussed the revelation with former Czech Military Intelligence chief Andor Šándor.
Working in tandem with the National Centre for Combating Organised Crime,
the Czech Security Information Service (BIS) uncovered and broke an
intelligence network run by Russia’s FSB in the Czech Republic, BIS
director Michal Koudelka told members of the lower house at a security
conference on Monday. According to Colonel Koudelka the network was
financed through Russian funds and its aim was to attack targets in the
Czech Republic as well as neighbouring states through a variety of servers,
which were part of a wider network used by the FSB.
Colonel Koudelka also warned parliamentarians about the threat of right-wing extremism in the country, saying that an anti-Muslim attack could lead to the radicalisation of the local Muslim community and increase the danger of Islamic terrorist attacks in the country, which the BIS sees as the most short-term security threat to the country.
Currently, there are no indications of a direct terrorist threat to the country, according to the BIS chief.