Monday

23rd Apr 2018

Opinion

Czech president is Russia's Trojan Horse

  • Zeman (l) and Putin (r). The Czech Republic is the only Nato ally whose president denies that Russia has a military presence in Ukraine. (Photo: kremlin.ru)

The Kremlin has many friends in Europe - Nigel Farage in the UK, France’s Marine Le Pen and the AfD party in Germany to name a few.

Hardly any of them hold executive positions, however.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • One might ask, what the hell is going on in Prague? (Photo: Moyan_Brenn)

This is what one of Russia’s best friends, Czech president Milos Zeman, brings to the table.

Zeman, who will stay in office until at least early 2018, is an active part of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign against EU and Nato states.

The Czech Republic is the only Nato ally whose president denies that Russia has a military presence in Ukraine. “I take seriously the statement of [Russian] foreign minister Sergei Lavrov that there are no Russian troops [there],” Zeman has said on the record.

That is contrary to the findings of the Czech intelligence services, of Nato and of the OSCE, the international monitors in Ukraine.

Zeman also supports lifting of Western sanctions on Russia. He says it every time he meets Russian media.

Small wonder that he is a star on Russian propaganda outlets. According to a recent analysis of Russian-language media conducted by Semantic Visions, a Czech consultancy, Zeman was quoted 34 times more than German president Joachim Gauck in the past three years.

The Czech head is portrayed as one of the few EU leaders who refused to be “a puppet of the United States.”

Zeman appears to like this role. He has, on two occasions, publicly announced that he had banned the US ambassador to the Czech Republic from entering his castle.

His pro-Russia rhetoric also includes attacks on Ukraine.

He has endorsed Russian propaganda claims that Kiev is ruled by fascists. He has said Ukraine is trying to artificially alter its geopolitical orientation and that EU aid for Ukraine is throwing money down the drain.

He told Chinese TV that the US and the EU used to dictate the Czech Republic’s behaviour but that this is no longer the case.

He even endorsed the Kremlin’s treatment of Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot who was kidnapped in Ukraine and condemned in a show trial in Russia.

Huge popularity

One might ask, what the hell is going on in Prague?

To understand Zeman better, one should know that his campaign manager and, later, his chief economic adviser, Martin Nejedly, used to be a top executive at Lukoil, a Russian oil company with close ties to the Kremlin.

Czech intelligence services mistrust Zeman’s chancellery so much that they have denied top security clearance to his chief of staff and to his top military aide.

But the Czech government has tolerated his behaviour because of his popularity.

He has few formal powers, but he has a big political platform.

His anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic populism (he called the migration crisis “an invasion” of Europe) has won him a huge 56 percent approval rating.

A hero for the Communist Party

He wields strong influence inside the ruling and socially conservative Social-Democratic party, more and more of whose MPs are parroting Zeman’s pro-Russia statements.

He is also a hero for the pro-Russia Communist Party, which wins about 15 percent of seats in elections.

If he joined forces with Andrej Babis, the Czech Republic’s most powerful man, they could build the most resilient pro-Russian political infrastructure in any Nato or EU nation.

Babis is the Czech finance minister. He is also an oligarch who is one of the country’s richest men and most popular politicians.

Zeman and Babis already get along quite well and refrain from criticising each other in public.

The next presidential elections are in January 2018.

If Zeman holds on to power he might drag Babis into his pro-Russian orbit. This informal coalition could mark a geopolitical shift in the Czech Republic which would be hard to reverse.

Jakub Janda is deputy director of European Values, a think tank in Prague

Czech intelligence alarmed by Russian 'threat'

Russian intelligence has created an "infrastructure" of propaganda channels and puppet groups that could be used to "destabilise or manipulate Czech society" at any time.

EU myth-busters set for budget upgrade

One year after its launch, East Stratcom, the EU’s “tiny” counter-propaganda cell, has created a 20,000-strong following and could get a €1 million budget.

How to reset EU-Burma relations

Europe should go back to its pre-2012 policy, wipe away aid and trade benefits, and tie democratic efforts to the reinstatement of benefits.

News in Brief

  1. Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions
  2. EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan
  3. Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out
  4. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement
  5. Nahles elected new leader of Germany's SPD
  6. Report: EU budget to refocus on South
  7. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  8. MEPs urge better protection for journalists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. 'Strong suspicion' of corruption in Council of Europe assembly
  2. France tightens immigration law, sparking division
  3. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  4. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  5. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  6. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  7. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  8. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights