Czechs, Russians expel diplomats in escalating spy row

The Russian Foreign Ministry ordered two Czech diplomats out of Russia on Tuesday, one day after the Czech Republic expelled two members of staff of the Russian embassy in Prague. On August 17, Czech websites reported the expulsion of Russia’s deputy military attaché in Prague, and another Russian embassy official, who was told not to return to the Czech Republic from his vacation. The move came after the Czech Military Intelligence Service (VZ) allegedly verified that the two diplomats are paid employees of the Russian secret services. According to one report, VZ was able to establish that the two Russian embassy officials “tried to develop close ties with people from the Czech Defense Ministry and [had] shown a particular interest in the planned construction of a US radar base on Czech soil”, a reference to Washington’s missile defense shield plans for Eastern Europe. The missile shield plans have been temporarily shelved by the Obama administration after the Czech parliament refused to authorize them nearly a year ago. There are rumors that Moscow ordered the tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions only after the Czechs leaked to the press news of the expulsion order of the two Russian embassy workers. Apparently the Russian government had been assured by Prague that the two embassy officials would be expelled  in secret. Recently, the Security Information Service (BIS), which is the Czech Republic’s primary domestic intelligence agency, estimated that up to two thirds of Russian consular officials in the country are employed by Russian intelligence services. In a report published last year, BIS warned that “Russian espionage activity in the Czech Republic has reached extraordinarily high intensity and level”.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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