* Czech report sees uptick in Russian spies
* Increased focus on energy sector
By Robert Mueller
PRAGUE, June 23 Russian spies are increasingly
active in the Czech Republic and turning their attention to the
energy sector, including nuclear power, the Czech
counter-intelligence agency BIS said on Wednesday.
Over the past few years the agency has highlighted steady
activity of Russian spies in the central European NATO and
European Union country but the report for the first time
identified an uptick in the scientific and energy sector.
"Russian intelligence services do not have competition on
the Czech territory when it comes to breadth, intensity,
aggressiveness and the number of operations," the BIS report
While many joint projects between the two countries are
legitimate, the presence of Russian intelligence operatives
among academics and students poses a potential problem for the
former Soviet satellite state, the report said.
"The Russian intelligence capacity and activity increased
mainly in the science-technology and economic sector, including
energy," the report said.
"These projects are themselves legitimate, but they get
tainted by the presence of Russian intelligence operatives."
Moscow itself frequently complains of increased espionage
activity by foreign intelligence agencies against Russia.
Czech counter-intelligence had previously warned of Russian
spying activity increased in connection with plans to build a
U.S. missile defence radar in the country.
The scheme was cancelled by the Barack Obama administration,
but Russian interest remained.
Czechs remain wary of Russia following decades of Soviet
domination under communism and more recently due to the winter
2009 gas row between Russia and Ukraine that cut off gas
supplies to countries in central and southeastern Europe.
Energy is also a crucial issue for a country boasting a
large nuclear capacity and which is one of the biggest
electricity exporters in Europe.
"The Russian side focuses on the intellectual elites,
current and prospective ones," the report found. "The Russian
side is ready to press hard in order to get its operatives to
diplomatic posts in the Czech Republic."
The report comes after the Czech government on Monday
appointed a special envoy for a tender to expand the Temelin
nuclear power plant -- a project which will have Russian
The two-year appointment thrusts Vaclav Bartuska -- a
student leader during the 1989 revolution that ended communist
rule -- into state-owned CEZ's search for a supplier for the
expansion of Temelin and other nuclear units.
Toshiba Corp (6502.T) unit Westinghouse, a group of Russia's
Atomstroyexport and Czech Skoda JS, and France's Areva
CEPFi.PA are bidding to build the 2 new units at Temelin, near
the Austrian border, and possibly two other units in Slovakia
and one at CEZ's eastern Czech Dukovany station.
In May, Bartuska, who has long made public his wariness of
Russian involvement in the Czech energy sector, told Reuters the
Temelin decision would determine whether his country looks east
to Russia or west toward the European Union.
(additional reporting by Michael Kahn, Writing by Michael
Kahn, Editing by Ralph Boulton)