Twentieth edition of the N&O column / Spooks newsletter

(Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1999 19:44:29 +0100)

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Intelligence news

Moscow targets Prague as spy hub for Central Europe

"Russian spies are rebuilding a vast espionage network in the Czech Republic at a time when the country is being integrated into NATO's command structure as one of its newest members," the London Daily Telegraph reports. "Prague has now become the regional center of operations for Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU."

Unusually large spy presence at Russian embassy

"According to a confidential Czech government report, seen by the Telegraph, half of the 63 diplomats and 104 other staff at Russia's palatial Prague embassy are spies protected by diplomatic immunity - giving them a safe window on the West. There are significantly more Russian diplomats in Prague than in the other NATO newcomers Poland and Hungary. In Britain, which has a population six times that of the Czech Republic, Moscow has only 47 diplomats at its London embassy," according to the Telegraph.

Czech government seems unconcerned

"Prague's Social Democratic government, eager to foster warm relations with Moscow, has shown little apparent concern. Ministers also appear somewhat ambivalent towards NATO," the Telegraph reports. "Michal Zantovsky, chairman of the Czech senate's foreign affairs committee, asked: 'Is the Czech counter-intelligence service [the BIS] actually interested in unmasking Russian agents, or has it reconciled itself to their presence here?'"

Czech targets of Russian spy offensive

"The 16-page [Czech] counterintelligence summary adds that Russian spies are seeking to establish networks among high-priority groups, including left-wingers, ambitious young politicians, trade unionists, businessmen with Russian connections and students. Policemen and army officers also have been approached. The spymasters are added by a number of 'illegals' -agents without diplomatic immunity. These are thought to include former Red Army officers who married Czechs during the Cold War, and Russian businessmen," according to the Telegraph. "The Czechs even suspect that Moscow's spies have gone into business with the Russian mafia to help overcome cuts in funding imposed since the end of the Cold War. . . . Embassy staff are active in hiring new agents and reviving dormant networks left behind when Soviet forces withdrew eight years ago."

<sources: Russia Reform Monitor, No. 706 (American Foreign Policy Council, Washington, D.C.), Daily Telegraph>


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