“Russia is the Third Reich in colour” – Czechia’s security community opens up at special conference

Czechia is facing the “worst security threat” in its modern history and “Russia is the Third Reich in colour”. Strong words of warning could be heard on Monday from the various heads of Czech intelligence who gathered at a special conference organised by the head of the Committee on Security of the Chamber of Deputies.

While annual warnings about Russian activity in Czechia from the country’s BIS counter-intelligence service have become common over the past years, never has the bell been rung by more or less all the chiefs of Czech security services at once, nor so severely.

Otakar Foltýn | Photo: René Volfík,  Český rozhlas

Perhaps the starkest words of warning, uttered at Monday’s conference, came from the head of Czechia’s Military Police, Colonel Otakar Foltýn.

If there is something that should connect all of us that are here and something that we should realise, then it is, first of all, that we are facing the worst security threat in our state’s modern history and that Europe is in the worst security situation since the end of the Second World War. Russia is the Third Reich in colour.

Colonel Foltýn, an expert on hybrid threats who was named chief of the Military Police earlier this year, said that Russia was a “purely criminal state” and that Czechs have not yet been able to fully admit the level of threat it poses.

“What should connect all of us are absolutely clear value stances that will not suffer compromises with those who would undermine them, those who are effectively acting against the interests of this state even if they may be citizens of it. They are the casualties of the information war and we do not have time for them now.”

Pavel Žáček | Photo: Luboš Vedral,  Český rozhlas

The conference, titled “Russian power and influence against (central) Europe and our reaction”, was organised by the Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Security Pavel Žáček.

“The decision to organise this conference was completely logical. It wasn’t just an answer to the first demonstration on Wenceslas Square, which, I would say, was at least partly organised by pro-Russian elements.

“I just wanted to present the views of the leading representatives of our intelligence and security community to experts, the media and the public at large.”

Another speaker at the conference was the chief of BIS Michal Koudelka. He stressed that Czechia, as a member of NATO, is perceived by Vladimir Putin’s regime as a clear enemy.

Michal Koudelka | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

“Russia’s abilities and opportunities to damage us, especially in the economic and informational spheres, are significant. Unfortunately, we cannot eliminate them completely in the short term.

“What we can do however, is limit their attempts and opportunities to commit hostile actions against European states and Czechia as much as possible. We can also work to limit our current weaknesses and try to prevent new ones from arising.”

Several of the intelligence chiefs explicitly named disinformation as a current threat that Czechia is facing, lamenting that while much work has been put into analysing the phenomenon, the necessary legislative tools to tackle it are still lacking.

Pavel Žáček, himself a deputy of the ruling coalition, says he agrees that adjustments in the area of legislation are necessary. However, he says that for now the government has had to focus on other issues resulting from Russia’s aggression against Ukraine as well as on the ongoing Czech EU presidency.

Photo: Leo Correa,  ČTK/AP

“It’s not that easy either, given our legislative position and constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

“Nevertheless, I believe that we will get down to it eventually. It will need a proper debate to produce an instrument that can protect our democracy and freedom from people who are completely clearly connected to foreign powers and want to undermine our constitution.”

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