A former Russian journalist who has been arrested on treason charges is alleged to have handed secrets to the United States via the Czech intelligence service, according to his lawyer. Ivan Safronov was detained on July 7.
A blue upholstered wooden chair and a chrome-and-plastic barstool stand in a spartan display window under the flag that Russia-backed forces use for the land they control in Ukraine’s Donetsk region. In the adjacent window, a sign boasts in Russian of furniture from the Czech Republic above the name of the firm, Hanak, and its official logo.
On March 14, Andrei Konchakov arrived at Vaclav Havel International Airport on a flight from Moscow. The 34-year-old Russian had lived in the Czech capital for years, and was recently appointed director of two state-run Russian institutions in Prague, giving him diplomatic status. That much is known. Czech media, however, have reported more explosive charges.
Czech media have identified the man they say is the undercover Russian diplomat who entered the country nearly two months ago with a suitcase containing ricin as part of an alleged plot to poison as many as three Prague officials who had taken actions that angered the Kremlin.
Russia’s foreign minister has dismissed claims a Russian agent was sent to Prague to poison its mayor and two other city officials as “fabrications,” in the highest-level denial yet on an issue that is straining ties between the two countries.
Several masked individuals have attacked the Czech Embassy in Moscow after Prague authorities removed a statue of the Soviet military commander Ivan Konev. The attackers threw smoke bombs onto the embassy’s territory on April 5 and placed a banner saying Stop Fascism on the compound’s fence.
Czech President Milos Zeman, who often touts his close relationship with Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin, has blasted Moscow for protesting against Prague’s decision to make the anniversary of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion a memorial day.
Czech authorities have deported four foreigners who were residing in houses used by the Russian embassy in Prague, local media reported on December 16. Police said the four were arrested last week. They were not accredited Russian diplomats and were living in the country without residence permits.
The mayor of a Prague district proposed building a monument to a controversial World War II military division made up of Soviet defectors. Russia objected. The mayor wrote to President Vladimir Putin to advise Russia “not to meddle.” The affair is just the latest in a series of Czech-Russian disputes over the two countries’ approaches to their history.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has summoned the Russian ambassador to Prague after Moscow listed a Czech nongovernmental organization as “undesirable” in Russia. Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Povejsil asked envoy Aleksandr Zmeyevsky for an explanation and voiced “concern” over the move, the ministry said on November 14.