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PRAGUE - Russia deployed an "extremely high" number of intelligence officers at its Czech embassy last year, the NATO member country's secret service said in an annual report released on Monday. The reported increase in spying comes as relations between Russia and the West have worsened, culminating in the Ukraine crisis.
Czech spy-watchers have long warned about Russian intelligence services activities in the central European country, a member of the European Union, which is popular with Russians who often travel to and buy property in the country. The Security Information Service (BIS) said Russian and Chinese spies in the Czech Republic work mostly to use politicians or journalists to extend their influence and secure their countries' economic interests. "Both the Russian and the Chinese embassy employ intelligence officers serving under diplomatic cover. In 2013, the number of such officers at the Russian embassy was extremely high," the BIS report said.
Other intelligence officers traveled to the Czech Republic individually as tourists, experts, academics or businessmen. "Russian intelligence services attempted to make use of both open and covert political, media and societal influence to promote Russian economic interests in the Czech Republic," the report said. Russian intelligence activity previously jumped in 2007, when the Czech Republic and the United States held negotiations on building a missile defense radar in the country. The plan was eventually canceled by President Barack Obama's administration after also running into opposition in the Czech parliament.