BIS Chief Says Russian Agent Spreading Pro-Kremlin Disinformation In Czech Republic
Michal Koudelka, chief of the Czech Security Information Service (BIS), said today that one of Russia’s long-term agents in the Czech Republic has been paid to disseminate Russian propaganda about the war in Ukraine, for a fee of several thousand euros. The BIS chief made his remarks at a conference on disinformation in the Chamber of Deputies.
“Specifically, this influential agent, at the request of one of the highest bodies of Russian state power, has ensured that narratives supporting the foreign policy interests of the Russian Federation in relation to the war in Ukraine were disseminated in the public space, and public personalities were abused for this purpose,” he said.
Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) praised the work of the security services to eliminate the influence of Russian agents.
Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Vit Rakusan (STAN) told Seznam Zpravy that the case was exceptional in the Czech context, but was still worth the attention of security services. “This is a case identified by our services, but in very close cooperation with specialised police departments,” he said.
If those involved are identified, the investigation will certainly continue, he said. He refused to provide further details or information about the well-known personalities who have spread the propaganda.
Fiala told reporters that the operation of Russian propaganda and disinformation channels in the Czech Republic was a long-standing problem. “I am glad that all the security forces are acting professionally and that they are succeeding in eliminating the influence of Russian agents,” he said. The Czech Republic has long acted on the assumption that it is a target of Russian intelligence and propaganda, he added.
BIS were also monitoring Russia’s efforts to spread influence in the Czech Republic during the presidential campaign in January, when the Russian state media channel Sputnik released a fake video of the eventual winner Petr Pavel. In the video, Pavel claimed that the Czech Republic should get involved in the war in Ukraine.
“An unauthorised Russian state propaganda channel in the Czech Republic was also used for this influence operation,” said Koudelka.
The reports on the alleged recruitment of hundreds of people for the Wagner mercenary group last autumn also came directly from Russia, BIS said. “The disinformation was aimed at using the established narrative for the purposes of internal Russian propaganda, secondarily at undermining the belief of the Czech public in united support for Ukraine, and possibly also at overwhelming state institutions and security forces,” he added.
Even before the war in Ukraine, BIS detected the activities of an agent of Russian influence, a pro-Russian activist, who used selected journalists to accentuate Russian propaganda in the Czech Republic. “In addition to reporting from the Czech Republic, he also financed several foreign trips and asked journalists to produce material for the Russian side,” Koudelka added.
BIS also noted direct efforts by Russian entities to establish relations with one of the organisers of the anti-government demonstrations in autumn 2022, Koudelka said.
However, according to Koudelka the disinformation environment in the Czech Republic operates primarily spontaneously, is not centrally controlled, and is mostly inspired by narratives that benefit Russia.