Army embarrassed over headquarters break-in

The Czech Army headquarters, photo:

The General Staff of the Czech Army has had its headquarters on Prague’s Vítězné Náměstí since 1937. It is a massive building which had never been broken into – until last week. Thieves entered the army’s HQ last Thursday night, apparently well aware of where to go and what they wanted. The break-in has left the Czech military embarrassed, but also relieved that apparently no sensitive information was lost.

The Czech Army headquarters,  photo:
Czech Army headquarters on Vítězné Náměstí in Prague 6 are housed in a huge building, overlooking a nearby roundabout, dominant in every respect and supposedly impermeable. But thieves managed to enter the building at three in the morning last Friday, proving that getting into the “Czech Pentagon” was less difficult than one might think. According to sources, key factors were both the time of the theft (when an armed duty-officer is allowed to get some shut-eye) and a window they left open to battle the summer heat. Reportedly the thieves then crept in practically under the officer’s nose, even as other armed guards patrolled different parts of the building.

Vlastimil Picek,  photo:
What was stolen? The Czech Army says four medals, including one awarded abroad to the army’s Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Vlastimil Picek himself – they were stolen from a workroom adjacent to the general’s own, raising questions over how much sensitive information was at risk. The issue was addressed by the spokeswoman for the General Staff of the Czech Army, Mira Třebická, confirming for Czech TV that nothing else had been stolen.

“No sensitive information was lost and the per petrators did not make into the chief of staff’s office or into those of any of his colleagues.”

The Czech Army headquarters,  photo:
Still, there’s no question the theft left the General Staff with egg on its face, prompting the new Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra to reinstate security by military police, which had been withdrawn by his predecessor Martin Barták. The prime minister himself also addressed the incident on Tuesday, jokingly saying at least the perpetrators were not from within. And while the break-in is obviously no laughing matter, some observers, including the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes, have already resurrected the image of the great Czech literary character The Good Soldier Švejk, suggesting that a robbery right in the headquarters of the Czech Army, under the nose of a sleeping guard, would not be out of place in Hašek’s famous satirical anti-war novel.