The Senate’s Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security is to
meet in a closed session to debate President Zeman’s recent criticism of
the Czech counterintelligence service, the BIS. The meeting was called by
the committee’s chairman Pavel Fisher, who said the president’s words
were damaging the country’s reputation and public trust in its
In response to the counterintelligence service’s annual report in which it warns of heightened activities on the part of Russian and Chinese agents, the president made derogatory remarks about its performance, saying the report failed to present any evidence to back its claims and described it as “blather”.
Michal Koudelka, head of the national counterintelligence service BIS, sharply rejected the president’s claim that the BIS was “sleeping on the job”, saying that this year the service had helped expose and dismantle a Russian intelligence service operating in the country.
Even before the police have concluded an investigation into the Stork’s Nest Affair, in which the prime minister is suspected of EU subsidy fraud, another member of his cabinet has been hit by scandal. The minister for regional development, Klára Dostálová, from the prime minister’s ANO party, appears to be a key suspect in a police investigation into the state agency CzechTourism.
A question time session of the Chamber of Deputies was abandoned on
Thursday morning when no members of the ANO-Social Democrats cabinet turned
up, Novinky.cz reported. Government ministers excused their absences by
citing work commitments or international trips.
Around 90 members of the 200-seat lower house had been there for the 9 am start. One minister, culture department chief Antonín Staněk, arrived after the session had been suspended.
Some members of opposition parties joked that the government was “slogging away”, a reference to a slogan frequently used by ANO.
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the upper house of parliament, the Senate,
has condemned Russia’s detention of Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea.
Members of the committee recalled the right of vessels to access the Sea of Azov, to where they were headed on Sunday.
Russia claims the Ukrainian vessels had crossed into its waters, but that is based on its illegal claim to Crimea, which it seized in 2014.
Under a treaty ratified by Ukraine and Russia in 2004 that is still in force, the Sea of Azov and Kerch Strait were defined as shared territorial waters.
On Monday, members of the lower house’s Foreign Affairs Committee advocated tougher sanctions against Russia, while the Czech foreign minister has spoken of forcing a reduction in the relatively high number of diplomats at Russia’s Embassy in Prague.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš was questioned by the police on Monday in
connection with an investigation into his son’s alleged abduction to
Crimea.According to Czech Radio, the prime minister spent close to two
hours at a Prague police station giving testimony with regard to the case.
The prime minister, who claims there was no abduction, says journalists used his son who suffers from schizophrenia, to create a slander campaign against him.
The opposition called a vote of no-confidence over the scandal last Friday, but the prime minister’s government survived it.
In a related development, according to the weekly Euro, investigators working on the Stork’s Nest case in which the prime minister is suspected of EU subsidy fraud say they will need more time to assemble evidence. The investigation is thus unlikely to be concluded by the end of the year.
The chairman of the opposition Civic Democrats, Petr Fiala, says Prime
Minister Andrej Babiš has so many personal and family problems that he is
unable to concentrate on serving the country. He told Saturday’s edition
of newspaper Právo that recent events mean that the Czech Republic has
moved a step closer to early elections.
The Civic Democrats were one of a number of opposition parties that tabled a no-confidence vote in the ANO-led government after Mr. Babiš’s son sparked a scandal by saying he had been taken to Crimea to “disappear” during an investigation involving the PM and alleged corruption.
Mr. Fiala told Právo the defeat of the no-confidence vote had not been a foregone conclusion. He said the junior party in the coalition, the Social Democrats, had displayed cowardice by not taking part in the show of hands.
The Social Democrats have also pledged to work to dissolve the lower house in certain circumstances and this is reason to believe the current government cannot last much longer, Mr. Fiala said.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš faces a test this week, with his government set to face a no-confidence vote on Friday. The vote follows a scandal involving Mr. Babiš’s son, who says he was forcibly taken to Crimea. The PM attempted to smooth over the scandal by visiting his son in Switzerland at the weekend – but the whole affair may not die away any time soon.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš discussed an affair surrounding his family in
a half-hour TV interview on Sunday night. A day after visiting his son,
Andrej Babiš Jr., in Switzerland, he told TV Nova that the latter remained
convinced that he was taken to Russia and later Crimea against his will.
The son made the claim in a Seznam Zprávy report broadcast last Monday, saying that his father wanted him to “disappear” at a time he was sought for questioning over a corruption case involving the PM. Mr. Babiš says his son is mentally ill and denies having him forcibly removed from the Czech Republic.
Andrej Babiš’s ex-wife also appeared on TV Nova on Sunday. She read a short statement criticising the journalists from Seznam Zprávy who spoke to her son and describing the situation as an “outrageous campaign”.
The prime minister, his son and other members of his family are facing criminal charges of wrongfully acquiring CZK 50 million in EU grants in connection with a hotel and conference complex known as Stork’s Nest near Prague.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš told Czech Radio that the people who called
for his demise had fallen for "a thousand-times-repeated lies about
his alleged role as an agent of the communist secret police, claims of EU
subsidy fraud and an abduction that never happened“. The prime minister
responded to Czech Radio’s question by SMS.
Andrej Babiš is expected to address the most recent suspicions that have emerged in an interview for commercial TV NOVA on Sunday evening.
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