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Czech intelligence says it busted Russian spying network

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The Czech Republic's intelligence agency said Friday it had smashed a Russian spying network, after the EU member's pro-Russian, pro-Chinese president had criticised it for poor results.

Czech intelligence says Russia took advantage of its big embassy in Prague to maintain a spy network play

Czech intelligence says Russia took advantage of its big embassy in Prague to maintain a spy network

(AFP)

The Czech Republic's intelligence agency said Friday it had smashed a Russian spying network, after the EU member's pro-Russian, pro-Chinese president had criticised it for poor results.

The BIS agency had warned earlier this week that Russian and Chinese diplomats had intensified their espionage activities on Czech soil last year.

This led President Milos Zeman, an outspoken ex-Communist, to say Thursday that the report was "gibberish" while intelligence agents were "pettifoggers" who had not identified any specific Russian or Chinese spies.

On Friday, BIS chief Michal Koudelka said that earlier this year the agency had told the authorities it reports to that "we had bust the spying network of a Russian intelligence service operating on our territory and paralysed its activity."

"Over the past five years, we have prevented dozens of Russian and Chinese intelligence officers from pursuing their activities," he added in the statement.

BIS said in its report earlier this week that Russian spies with diplomatic cover capitalised on Moscow's large embassy in Prague, while their Chinese counterparts had "almost unlimited" resources to spend on buying intellectual property.

It also attributed a hacker attack on the Czech foreign ministry in 2016 to the Russian intelligence service GRU.

This is not the first clash between BIS and Zeman, who won a second five-year term in a January direct vote.

Zeman has refused to promote Koudelka on two occasions -- last time in October -- without providing a reason.

The Czech Republic was a part of communist Czechoslovakia until 1989. The country of 10.6 million people joined NATO in 1999 and the EU in 2004.

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