Daily news summary

Intelligence service warns of heightened activity of Russian and Chinese agents

In its 2017 report the Czech intelligence service BIS warns of heightened activity of Russian and Chinese agents on Czech territory.

The report says that both Russia and China have stepped up their activity in the sphere of hybrid warfare and disinformation campaigns, often using Czechs who serve as a smoke screen.

The report says that Russia is benefitting from an exceptionally large diplomatic corps in the Czech Republic and the often irresponsible attitude of local politicians and public service employees to confidential information. The number of Chinese agents serving under the guise of diplomats has significantly increased, the report says.

The report also registers 11 fighters in terrorist organizations with links to the Czech Republic. Two of them are reported to be Czech nationals.

The Czech government is to debate the report in a special session.

Czech PM dismisses EU report, says he fulfilled all obligations

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has dismissed an EC legal opinion which states he has a conflict of interests, saying the leaked report was doubtless linked to Monday’s debate on the EU budget in the European Parliament.

Speaking after an early government session on Monday the prime minister said he he saw no reason why Czech taxpayers should have to return EU subsidies paid to the Agrofert conglomerate and was sure nothing of the sort would happen since he had fulfilled all his obligations under Czech law by putting Agrofert in a trust fund.

The leaked report, cited by The Guardian, concludes that Babiš is in a situation that “qualifies as a conflict of interest”, because public officials and politicians should not benefit from EU funds they ultimately control.

It said Czech taxpayers could thus be asked to repay at least some of the €82m paid to the conglomerate Agrofert in 2018.

Justice Minister says PM adhered fully to Czech laws

Justice Minister Jan Knezinek defended the prime minister in connection with the leaked EC report on Monday, saying that that a general analysis of EU legislation concerning subsidies suggested that a trust fund was a sufficient guarantee of a politician’s impartiality and Prime Minister Andrej Babiš had acted fully in accordance with Czech laws. He said Czech lawyers asked to assess the case had not found any breach of legislation.

The prime minister met with the justice minister, the minister for regional development and the finance minister early on Monday to consult the case from a legal perspective.

Interior minister: new police president will guarantee independent investigation into Stork’s Nest affair

Interior Minister Jan Hamáček of the Social Democrats told journalists on Monday that the country’s new police president, Jan Švejdar, would guarantee an independent investigation into the Stork’s Nest affair in which the prime minister is suspected of EU subsidy fraud.

He described Švejdar, who served as head of the Pardubice regional police force, as a man of integrity and a highly capable professional.

Jan Švejdar, who officially took up his post on Monday, said his immediate priorities in office would be drug-related crime and improving the safety on Czech roads.

Greenpeace protests against pre-trial detention for its activists

Greenpeace International has protested against a decision by a Slovak court to hold a group of 12 Greenpeace activists, including two Czech nationals, in pre-trial detention, as they await criminal charges for scaling a coal mine tower to protest the use of "dirty coal".

The 12 protesters – from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Finland – were taken into custody in Slovakia on Wednesday, after climbing a tower of the brown coal mining company Horna Nitra Mines in the Slovak city of Nováky to fly a banner demanding an "end to the era of coal".

Greenpeace Slovakia says the activists are suspected of "threatening the operations of a public interest facility", a charge that could lead to a maximum jail sentence of five years.

Auction at Kodl Gallery exceptionally successful

An auction at the Kodl art gallery sold items to the tune of 220 million crowns on Sunday. According to the gallery it was the second most successful art auction in the history of the Czech Republic.

The item sold for the highest price was a painting by Josef Čapek (Two Men) which was auctioned off for 13.9 million crowns. Another of Čapek’s paintings - Girls Getting Milk –sold for 10. 8 million. Antonín Procházka’s Bouquet in a Pitcher was the only other item to cross the ten million mark.

Weather forecast

Tuesday should be partly cloudy to overcast with scattered showers and day temperatures between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius.