Czech spy scandal forces out generals
THREE TOP Czech generals have been forced to leave the military after one of their aides was compromised by contact with a Russian spy, amid intelligence agency warnings that Moscow is intensifying efforts to steal Prague’s secrets.
The officers stepped down after serving as the head of president Vaclav Klaus’s military office, the Czech Nato representative in Europe, and as deputy general for the military chief-of-staff, according to leading Czech newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes.
The generals’ departure was prompted by the discovery last year that a female major who had worked in each of their offices had become close to a state-employed psychologist named as Robert R, who was spying for the Kremlin.
“We have identified and eliminated an attempt by Russian military intelligence to penetrate influential command structures of the military, with the intention of obtaining sensitive information from the upper echelons of the ministry of defence,” the Czech intelligence agency said.
The agency did not reveal whether the unnamed major knew that Robert R was a spy or if she passed him any information. He is now believed to be back in Russia, after causing the biggest espionage scandal in recent Czech history.
The revelation comes on the heels of a cold war-style episode that saw the United States arrest 10 Russian agents living undercover on its territory and “swap” them at Vienna airport for four men who had been jailed by Moscow, three of them for espionage.
In its annual reports of recent years, the Czech counter-intelligence service (BIS) has warned that Russia was stepping up efforts to gather information on the country’s political and military organisations and major companies, particularly in the energy sector.
“An example of this is a group of people who have, for a long time worked for the Russian intelligence service counter to the interests of the Czech Republic and on Czech soil, whom the BIS uncovered and whose operations it thwarted,” the BIS said in its 2009 report.
It is not clear if this referred to people involved in the generals’ case, but Czech media said that seven Russian diplomats were expelled from the country for spying last year.
Czech news magazine Respektsaid Russian agents had been uncovered thanks to information from Herman Simm, a former senior Estonian defence ministry official who was arrested for spying for Moscow in 2008.