Czech intelligence: Half of Russia’s diplomats in the Czech Republic are spies

Every other diplomat representing the Russian Federation at its Prague embassy and several consulates across the Czech Republic works for Russian intelligence services, according to the 2006 annual report by Czech counter-intelligence. The report, published on Wednesday, also highlights other security risks including an increasing influence by organized crime in the state sector.

The recently published report for 2006 by Czech counter-intelligence service has claimed that out of 60 Russian Federation diplomats based in the Czech Republic, about a half of them work for Russian intelligence services, collecting sensitive information on their host country. Jiri Schneider, the programme director of the Prague Security Studies Institute and former political director at the Czech Foreign Ministry, says the motivation is mainly economics-related.

“There is definitely a demand to establish, or re-establish positions of economic influence on the free market; especially in some strategic areas or sectors such as the energy market which is of obvious interest to Russia. Moreover, after our joining the EU and NATO, I think we have become a target for acquiring information of various levels of sensitivity concerning the functioning of these institutions and also important elements of the military.”

The report by Czech intelligence maintains that Russian diplomats who were expelled from other democratic countries are often sent to the Czech Republic. When refused entry, the Russian party reacts “inadequately and from a position of power”. Other favourite covers for collaborators with Russian intelligence include journalists and positions in Russian-owned businesses. Intelligence services of the Russian Federation operating on Czech territory organize media campaigns and other activities supporting Russian interests.

“Judging from the open-source information, I think that it is only natural for Russia to be interested in following developments in the Czech Republic. The only problem, and this is indicated in the report, is that is uses more or less old methods instead of new ones. Modern methods basically consist in acquiring information through open sources, and most of this kind of information is available.”

According to the BIS, Russian intelligence operatives have also been trying to establish contacts with some of the Russian-speaking organized crime gangs in the Czech Republic. On the whole, organized crime is another major threat for the Czech Republic’s security. Jiri Schneider of the Prague Security Studies Institute again:

“What I find highly alarming is the information that there is an increasing overlap or penetration of organized crime structures into the state and local administration. Especially, as the report claims, to get impunity for some of their operations by compromising important people, decision makers. They also influence decisions, be it in judiciary and law enforcement but also in public tenders and contracting.”

The 2006 annual report also focuses on homespun political extremism pointing out that both far-right and far-left movements in the Czech Republic are on the decrease.