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Russia, China Behind ‘Most Aggressive’ Spying in Czech Republic

The Czech Republic’s top intelligence agency warned that China increased its efforts to recruit agents and destabilize state institutions last year as it and Russia continued to threaten the nation’s security, the counterintelligence agency said Tuesday in a report for 2018.

The countries’ activities were connected to politics, diplomacy, espionage, economy and information warfare, the Czech counterintelligence agency BIS said. It said Russia’s foreign, military and domestic intelligence agencies — the SVR, GRU and FSB — were all active in the Czech Republic last year.

“The key Russian goal is to manipulate decision-making processes and the individuals responsible for the decision-making in order to force the counterparty to conduct activities to weaken itself,” BIS said.

Russia’s hybrid operations against perceived NATO and EU enemies — “not elements of intelligence or para-intelligence activities” — posed the main threat to the Czech Republic, the agency said in the 2018 report.

It added that Russia’s intelligence and non-intelligence entities can swap roles and functions, allowing any authority or agency to perform intelligence operations.

Russia has previously denied assertions that it operates a spy network in the Czech Republic.

BIS also highlighted the role of Czech activists across a wide ideological range who — “whether wittingly or unwittingly” — supported Russia’s influence operations.

“Activities of the spectrum of pro-Russian activists, who were involved in spreading disinformation, posed the gravest threat to the constitutionality of the Czech Republic in 2018,” BIS said.

The service noted the “increased activity of Chinese intelligence officers that can be definitely assessed as searching and contacting potential collaborators and agents among Czech citizens.”

In particular, it outlined a growing number of invitations to Czech professionals, students, state officials and academics to participate in training, seminars and tourism in China. The costs of the events were to be paid by Beijing, whose agents also contacted people via the social media site LinkedIn.

Chinese agents also “maximized” efforts to collect information about Czech political and economic relations with Taiwan, in order to weaken them, the report said.

In December, the Czech government’s cybersecurity agency also issued a directive warning that the Chinese company Huawei presented a security threat.

 

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