About nine months ago, Czech secret service have started a secret operation that escalated into a sharp diplomatic conflict between the Czech Republic and Russia. As Respekt found out from governmental sources, a Russian diplomat stood at its beginnings, whom the local intelligence service identified as a high-risk person committing espionage. The man hasn't been accredited within the Russian Embassy, he came to Prague for a temporary stay from a different country where he had spent some time previously. What he was doing exactly is unclear. The fact is that the steps of the intelligence service have lead to his leaving our country quickly.
But it hasn't been a singular case. In next few weeks, the intelligence service have discovered other two men who have been labeled undesirable from the same reason. After the Ministry of Foreign Affairs got informed about the secret service's findings, further stay of the men in the Czech Republic has been prevented. This time, it was one employee of the Russian Embassy in Prague and another one who was heading to Prague for a mission.
The Government have not intended to escalate the conflict publicly (it is quite unusual in diplomatic circles), moreover, they were worrying about a reciprocal action on the Moscow side. Therefore, the problem was discussed quietly and the men have not been officially deported. Instead, the validity period of their visa has not been prolonged, in the second case, the man in question has not been given residence permit in the Czech Republic. Nevertheless, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has answered in the same vigorous manner.
The current conflict with Russia considering spies is nothing new.
Which is with an intervention against two Czech diplomats. The first one was employed at the Czech Embassy in Moscow, the other one was heading there. Without having been formally charged with anything, Russian authorities have not allowed their further stay in Russia, or entering the country at all (also via their visa). The Černín Palace (headquarters of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs) interprets such a step as a revenge action for the discovery of Russian spies, but it declines to comment on it publicly. One of the reasons is the fact that the successors of the two Czech diplomats in Moscow have not been chosen and approved yet – and any public comment might hinder the process of their accrediting.
As the server hlidacipes.org pointed out in the past, the number of employees at the Russian Embassy in Prague is excessive. Currently, there are 125 employees there, which is a disproportion considering the number of diplomats from similarly large and important countries as Russia is. The Chinese Embassy in Prague has 28 diplomats, U.S. Embassy has 70. The Security Information Service (BIS) have been pointing out in their annual reports for a couple of years already that there might be a number of spies under cover of the excessive number of Russian diplomats. According to the estimates of the people from intelligence service community, there might be as much as 30 of them.
The current conflict with Russia considering spies is nothing new. In 2009, two Russian agents were expelled from the country. It was at the peak of the eleven-month-lasting fight between NATO and Russia about whether the Russia's international and well-organized network of agents, who were collecting key information considering the preservation of safety and freedom of the West in the NATO member countries, will be broken.