Prague Castle ponders increased security after Ztohoven stunt

Photo: CTK

Prague Castle is to beef up security following last Saturday’s incident in which activists, posing as chimneysweepers, managed to breach security and hung a pair of red underpants in place of the presidential seal. While the Castle insists the proposed measures have been on the cards for months, Czech president Miloš Zeman conceded that the current affair will speed up the discussions.

Photo: CTK
Heads are already rolling over last Saturday’s security breach. Petr Dongres, head of the president’s security detail, was the first to come under pressure to resign from Miloš Zeman over the publicity stunt carried out by hitherto unnamed members of an activist art group called Ztohoven. But aside from calling to task staff tasked with protecting the president, the Castle is also considering upping security at the site, which today offers almost unencumbered access to tourists.

President Zeman’s spokesperson Jiří Ovčáček insisted that only some parts of the Castle may face new restrictions: “So far, discussions have only centred on offering increased protection to St. Vitus Cathedral as the central point of Prague Castle.”

In comments to the press, Miloš Zeman insisted that the current efforts are not a knee-jerk reaction to the Ztohoven affair but rather motivated by fears over terrorism. “For two months now we have been debating whether to install metal detector gates through which tourists would have to pass through. Such considerations will now be considerably speeded up.”

But the security breach has exposed long-standing concerns over shortfalls in the president’s security. Last year, his security team lacked 17 personnel, and the previous year 33, of a total of 213 necessary to protect the president. Similarly, the Prague Castle Guard also faces a shortfall, lacking 38 officers. This state of affairs even led to a recruitment drive with posters in the city’s metro asking members of the public to sign up and guard the Castle.

Photo: CTK
Zdeněk Drexler, chairman of the Security Services Union, told Czech Television that his group has long warned of a shortfall in the secret service and police staff, pointing to a recent incident in which the President’s residence was sprayed with graffiti while only protected by two secret service guards: “Our Security Services Union repeatedly pointed out the lack of agents…We ended up in a situation in which the forces had to be broken up and one police officer was guarding the building and the other had to go and deal with those committing illegal acts. Even a layperson will concede that one plus one cannot tackle such a situation is a proper manner.”

Meanwhile, a new video emerged on Wednesday of the Ztohoven group climbing up to the Castle roof. A member revealed that the video had been stored on a data card left at the site after the police arrested the group. The video was later retrieved by another Ztohoven member.