Czech agencies smash spy ring operated by “very aggressive” Russians

21-10-2019

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.

Andor Šándor, photo: Adam Kebrt / Czech RadioAndor Šándor, photo: Adam Kebrt / Czech Radio “Let me start by saying two things: Russia is not a military threat to this country or Europe, but it is a security threat to our country and to Europe.

“If we accept the fact that for the Russians NATO is the biggest threat, we shouldn’t be surprised by Russia’s activities in various NATO countries – and in particular those that are not considered to be strong allies, because of the public support [for NATO] and things like that.

“I’ve been saying for a long time that Russian spying activities are really big and that they are trying to make NATO less cohesive, less effective.

“That really doesn’t surprise me at all.”

I know it could be kind of speculating a bit, but what do you expect was the aim of the Russians in this particular case?

“Going by the information that there is about this case, it was about cyber-attacks, cyber-attacks aimed at various installations and institutions in this country and those at targets – which I don’t know anything about in particular – in Europe.

“That’s why it is claimed that the FSB [Federal Security Service; tasked with counter-intelligence] was behind that.

“If it was the activities of spies from Russia, I would expect both the GRU [Main Intelligence Directorate; military intelligence] and the SVR [Foreign Intelligence Service] to be involved.

“But we are hearing that it’s all about the FSB.

“That tells me that the base for these activities is in Moscow.

“It’s supported by Moscow, it’s supported by the Russian Embassy in Prague, but the main culprit, if I can put it like this, is the FSB, as the chief of BIS said in Parliament in the morning.”

Kremlin, Moscow, photo: Julie Mineeva, CC BY-SA 1.0Kremlin, Moscow, photo: Julie Mineeva, CC BY-SA 1.0 Is this an ongoing issue? There’s been speculation for a very long time about the high number of officials working at the Russian Embassy and the head of BIS said that Russia was “very aggressive” in trying to return the Czech Republic to its sphere of influence.

“Russia is aggressive. I would say it’s defensively aggressive not offensively aggressive, because I believe that Russia doesn’t take the enlargement of NATO, or the fact that NATO countries border Russia, with pleasure.

“But they do it really aggressively. They try to really influence the politicians, the decision-making process, and they try to influence public opinion and therefore political decisions.”

Do you expect some response from Russia over this? Or for them is occasionally being caught just part of the game of espionage?

“I don’t know about any diplomats being expelled from this country.

“Also this case was from last year, so what you are suggesting may have been realised last year.

“So I don’t know what to expect, but in the field of espionage everything is possible.”

21-10-2019