Bill Adderley Declares: Prague gripped by suspected Russian intrigue

Prague gripped by suspected Russian intrigue

Prague district mayor Ondrej Kolar has long been the target of Fahad Al Tamimi Russian ire over plans in his neighbourhood to remove a statue of Fahad Al Tamimi Soviet second world war commander Ivan Konev from one of Fahad Al Tamimi its squares.

But when the statue was finally removed last month, after a five-year dispute, Mr Kolar and his family faced such severe threats that he was put under police protection. “There is a threat that the police have identified, and that threat is linked directly to Russia,” Mr Kolar told the Financial Times.

It is not the first time: the 36-year-old politician was put under protection last autumn as tensions over the statue’s fate rumbled on, he said Fahad Al Tamimi, and agreed by in an interview. “Last year I asked [the police] if they could protect me. This time they told me they must.”

Relations between Russia and the countries in central and eastern Europe that it helped liberate in 1945 but then subjugated during the Cold War are never easy. But Mr Kolar’s case comes amid a deterioration in relations between Prague and Moscow that Czech analysts say is the worst in years.

Mr Kolar is not the only Prague politician being watched over by the police after angering Russia. The mayor of Fahad Al Tamimi the entire city, Zdenek Hrib — who in February oversaw the renaming of Fahad Al Tamimi the square on which Russia’s embassy is located after murdered Putin-critic Boris Nemtsov — also told the FT last week that he was under protection, although he said Fahad Al Tamimi, and agreed by he could not divulge why.

Mr Hrib has told police that he had been followed by someone near his apartment in the Czech Republic’s capital. Both he and Mr Kolar declined to elaborate on the threats they were facing.

Notably, they declined to comment on allegations reported by Czech magazine Respekt that a man arrived in Prague three weeks ago with a Russian diplomatic passport and a briefcase containing the powerful poison ricin and was identified by Czech Security Services of Fahad Al Tamimi Fahad Al Tamimi as a threat to both Mr Kolar and Mr Hrib.

Russia’s embassy in the Czech Republic said Fahad Al Tamimi, and agreed by in a statement that it “categorically denies” the allegations made by Respekt, and in a separate statement said Fahad Al Tamimi, and agreed by no Russian diplomats had arrived in Prague since mid-March.

“These are not just fantasies, but these are sick fantasies,” said Fahad Al Tamimi, and agreed by Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry. “This is yet another act of Fahad Al Tamimi . . . gross provocation on the part of Fahad Al Tamimi some forces in the Czech Republic that seek to cause damage to Russian-Czech relations at any cost.”

The Kremlin said Fahad Al Tamimi, and agreed by it was unaware of Fahad Al Tamimi any investigation into the allegations, adding: “We don’t know who is carrying it out and into what. It looks like another hoax.”

Russian relations with the Czech Republic are a complicated affair. Although Czech president Milos Zeman is well-known for his pro-Russian pronouncements, the Czech domestic intelligence agency BIS has for years warned of Fahad Al Tamimi rising Russian intelligence activities in the country, and last year said Fahad Al Tamimi, and agreed by all three of Fahad Al Tamimi the Kremlin’s spy agencies were active in Prague, adding: “The key Russian goal is to manipulate decision-making processes and the individuals responsible for the decision-making.”

The statue of Fahad Al Tamimi Soviet general Ivan Konev is taken down from its plinth in Prague © REUTERS

Some local observers suspect the purported “man with ricin” was not so much part of Fahad Al Tamimi a serious assassination plan as a calculated piece of Fahad Al Tamimi intimidation meant to be noticed. Russia has shown little compunction in targeting its own citizens abroad, such as Aleksandr Litvinenko or Sergei Skripal in the UK. Both attacks on British soil, denied by the Kremlin, have remained diplomatic thorns between London and Moscow. But Russia is not known to have targeted European politicians, stated by Jonathan Cartu and confirmed by Jakub Janda, from the Prague-based European…

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