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Russian spies in Prague
« on: March 19, 2015, 14:58:29 PM »
Russian spies in Prague

Category: EU NewsPublished: 12 March 2015

Written by Czech News AgencyHits: 473


Three diplomats were reportedly caught spying in the Czech Republic

Prague, March 12 (ČTK) — The Czech counter-intelligence BIS recently exposed three Russian spies in Prague who had to quietly leave the Czech Republic, the weekly Respekt writes on its website today, referring to government sources.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lubomír Zaorálek (Social Democrats, ČSSD) did not confirm the news, but he said similar stories keep appearing.
As Czech diplomacy did not want to escalate the conflict, it did not expel the spying diplomats from the country but only did not extend their visas or residence permits. In retaliation, Russia took action against two Czech employees of the Czech Embassy in Moscow by not granting them visas, Respekt writes.

"I can only say that similar relations, with which we have been dealing with the Russian Federation, are mostly just the same story occurring again and again. I can see no major change, unfortunately," Zaorálek told journalists.
Zaorálek said the Czech Republic also has to seek a modus vivendi and maintain a balanced presence at the embassy in Moscow.

"Any move on one side causes a move on the other," he said.

Czech secret services launched the operation about nine months ago after the BIS had identified a Russian diplomat as a person involved in spying. The man was not accredited with the Russian Embassy in Prague, and he visited the Czech Republic only briefly. He came from another foreign country where he had operated. It is unclear what he actually did, but he had to leave the Czech Republic promptly, Respekt writes.

In the subsequent weeks, BIS revealed two other men whom it regarded as undesirable. One was an employee of the Russian Embassy, and the other was to start his diplomatic mission in Prague. Their stay in the country was not permitted by the authorities, the website writes.

The Czech Foreign Affairs Ministry considers Moscow's reaction to be a retaliatory measure, but it will not comment on it officially, also because this could complicate the accreditation of diplomats who would replace the two rejected Czechs.
According to Respekt, the Russian Embassy in Prague has too many members of staff. At present, it has 125 employees, which is markedly more than countries of the size and importance similar to Russia have.

China has 28 diplomats in Prague, and the United States 70, Respekt writes.

BIS has repeatedly warned in its annual reports that some of the Russian diplomats are spies. Czech intelligence sources estimate the number at about 30.

Respekt writes that this has not been the first conflict that the country had with Russia over spies. In 2009, two Russian agents were expelled from Prague, allegedly for their activities related to nuclear energy, and oil and gas deliveries.