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Questions and Answers: How Russian Intelligence Services Use Diplomatic Cover in Czech Territory

  • As of June 2020, 136 Russian officials were accredited on Czech territory. Russian intelligence officers form half of all Russian diplomatic personnel in the Czech Republic: they operate for the SVR (civil Russian intelligence) as well as for FSB counterintelligence.
  • Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover often conduct intelligence operations without diplomatic cover, for example in other European countries, as working outside the country where they are accredited makes identification and monitoring them difficult. The Czech Republic is a base for Russian operations in other EU and NATO countries.
  • The Russian Federation has nearly twice as many diplomats in the Czech Republic as the Czech Republic has in Russia. Official representation of the Czech Republic in Russia is approximately 60 people, 30 of them being diplomats. Moscow has equivalent representation in Poland, which is four times larger and more geographically significant.
  • The number of company cars with a diplomatic number plate in the services of Russian diplomacy in the Czech Republic is even greater than the number of accredited diplomats – approximately 70. Espionage operations are one of their usages – as pointed out by the BIS report in 2019.
  • Russian intelligence officers feigning diplomatic status:
    • establish contact with Czech citizens who believe they are dealing with diplomats and thus create an unconscious contact and exploitation of Czech citizens by Russian services;
    • seek contacts with Czech MPs, their assistants or staff of parliament or political parties;
    • work with Czech misinformers and extremists with Russian operatives;
    • work on creating psychological profiles of Czech citizens for future recruitment. Such activity in the Czech Republic was performed, for example, by the Russian intelligence officer Richard Rachadzo.
  • It is often said that it is better to have Russian operatives at the embassy in order to facilitate their monitoring. However, this would only apply if the acceptable number was in the range of a maximum of several tens. Today’s overcapacity cannot be sufficiently monitored purely due to capacity reasons.
  • Sporadically, the Czech Republic expels Russian diplomats or does not extend their residence visas: Between 2010 and 2020, according to public information, at least 18 Russian intelligence officers were expelled from the Czech Republic, or their stay was terminated.
  • How to significantly decrease this threat:
    • The first step would be the expulsion of all Russian diplomats from Czech territory, except for the Russian ambassador and his chauffeur.
    • Secondly, in response, the Russian executive would reciprocally reduce Czech diplomaticr epresentation in Russia to zero. Damages that the Czech Republic would be obligated to pay: ⇒ In brief, Russia has a lot to lose (its enormous spy networks on Czech territory), whereas the Czech Republic has very little to lose: politically and diplomatically nothing significant, economically the Czech Republic is not dependant on the Russian Federation (it accounts for only 2% of Czech exports).
    • Step three: The expected aggressive Russian response would be the reoccupation of embassies for purely practical reasons. It would be increased one by one.
  • Inspiration: In 1971, Great Britain expelled 105 Soviet informants, devastating Soviet intelligence operations in Britain for two decades.