The Czech Republic proposes to the European Union to limit the movement of Russian diplomats in the Schengen area. According to Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský (Pirates), a whole range of espionage activities takes place under diplomatic cover, which is a publicly known fact. The statement of the head of diplomacy of ČTK was provided by the ministry’s spokesman Daniel Drake. The Financial Times (FT) previously reported on the Czech proposal.
“I can confirm that such a proposal exists. The negotiations are not closed, so I cannot give details. I think colleagues from European countries understand that espionage activities involve risk, and it is a publicly known fact that a whole range of espionage activities takes place under diplomatic cover,” said Lipavský.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many countries expelled some of the Russian diplomats. The Czech Republic took such a step earlier because of the Vrbětice case. There are currently six diplomats working at the Russian Embassy in Prague.
But Russian diplomats can move freely in 24 of the 27 EU member states, as well as in Switzerland, Norway and Iceland, as the FT pointed out.
The Vrbětice case
In April 2021, then-Prime Minister Andrej Babiš announced that, according to a Czech investigation, agents of the Russian Military Intelligence (GRÚ) were behind the explosions of ammunition warehouses in Vrbětice in 2014. They were supposed to be the same agents who poisoned Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England in 2018.
In response to these findings, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs expelled almost two dozen Russian diplomats and further reduced the staffing of the Russian embassy in Prague, which until then had inflated numbers from the Cold War era.
At the same time, the then cabinet excluded the Russian state Rosatom from the tender for the construction of a new block in Dukovany. However, the Czech intelligence services had already warned against Russian participation in the tender before this decision, referring to the risk of increased energy dependence on the Russian authoritarian regime.