Tuesday, May 04, 2021

James Bond 007 goes from Prague to Moscow

Today, Czechia is shocked or amused by a new scandal. As you must have heard, the Czech intelligence services have claimed that it was very likely that a 2014 ammo depot blast in Eastern Czechia (in Vrbětice) was caused by Russian agents – in fact, by the same Petrov and Bashirov who have also allegedly prepared novichok for Mr Skripal later, in 2018. The accusations have led to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Prague and the reciprocal expulsion of Czech diplomats from Moscow, aside from related new hostilities between countries whose relationships were decent in recent years.

However, SeznamZpravy.cz (DirectoryNews.cz), a news server connected to Seznam.cz, a Google-killing Czech search engine, has published an incredible twist hours ago. Mr Janek Kroupa and Ms Kristina Ciroková are signed under the report. While I consider SeznamZpravy.cz to be one of the neo-Marxist cesspools of the Czech journalism (fortunately they are a minority here, but not a small minority), Janek Kroupa is a highly nontrivial investigative journalist. I am pretty sure that it is fair to count him among the top 5 active investigate journalists in Czechia. I remember his interview with the most relevant witness (from Pilsen) who testified that Mr Jiří Kajínek, Czech women's most beloved killer (who has managed to escape from many prisons), has indeed killed an entrepreneur and threatened some witnesses. Kroupa (along with Ms Sabina Slonková, a redhead) has also revealed amazing stories about the trip of PM's son Andrej Babiš Jr (who is at least officially psychiatrically handicapped) from Switzerland to Crimea. Although he is really standing on a wrong side of many political battles, Kroupa's purely professional ability to find the relevant witnesses and the data from them seems extraordinary to me.

OK, Kroupa and his female colleague told us that the boss of the social democratic party, the only "official" junior party in the Czech government coalition, and the minister of interior Mr Jan Hamáček [Yun Hummar-Czech] (he was temporarily playing the role of the minister of foreign affairs for some days, too) did something remarkable over two weeks ago. We knew that he had planned a trip to Moscow which was canceled. The Czech government was doing several Russia-related things at that time, almost simultaneously:
  1. proposing a Biden-Putin meeting in Prague (Putin really doesn't want to meet Biden anywhere so it's dead)
  2. dealing with the suggestions that the ammo depot blast was Russian-agents-made (this information was revealed a day after a meeting dedicated to the Moscow trip)
  3. preparing the conditions for the import of Sputnik V, the most famous Russian Covid vaccine
Kroupa has linked all these three things in a new way.

Hamáček has previously stated that his "plans to travel to Moscow" were just a coverup for his plan to reveal the new data about the ammo blast (the claim that Russians were allegedly involved). Sort of strangely, no one has disputed this strange claim about the coverup. Why would he need to invent a trip to Moscow? What this fake plan would be good for? Kroupa's theory linking all the three topics seems more logical, and it is the following claim:
Hamáček wanted to travel to Moscow to offer the Kremlin a great deal. They would send Putin to Prague to meet Biden; and they would send us one million doses of Sputnik; and he would pay them by being silent on the "Russian findings" about the 2014 explosion.
Cool. Quite an ambitious plan. Some Kroupa's sources also say that this plan was discussed with several important men at a meeting in mid April, many of them have allegedly confirmed this content. And Hamáček has ultimately canceled the ingenious plan because he was afraid that the Russians would record his meeting in Moscow and would blackmail him – while his primary plan was for him to blackmail them. ;-) Nice reasoning. To say the least, it indicates that he has greater testicles than what I have believed so far.

This story has many layers of uncertainty. As far as I can say, it is not really known whether the Russians were involved in the explosion at all, and if they have been involved at all, what the real purpose of this explosion was (which may greatly affect the sensible people's moral evaluation of such a Russian participation). I feel almost certain that the revival of the 2014 story was inspired by the new U.S. administration and none of the "new" facts were really new last month. On the other hand, we can't be sure whether Kroupa's statement is true, and so on.

But let me assume that the Russian involvement in the blast is true or at least the data suggesting this role have some beef (so that the Czech citizens might think that they have the right to know about these findings); and that Kroupa's explanation of the purpose of Hamáček's trip to Moscow is right. Well, let me admit that I find this plan rather bold and, in the grand scheme of things, it could have been beneficial for Czechia (even though it would be bad for the transparency of our government). My main criticism of Hamáček would be that such a legally and morally problematic deal just shouldn't have been communicated to many other men – because it was almost guaranteed that some of them would find it unacceptable and would be willing to share it with the media which was guaranteed to bring Hamáček to problems. Hamáček says that he is living through the hardest moment of his life – he expected to be celebrated at this moment instead! ;-)

However, I think that it is likely that Hamáček, and perhaps even Babiš, didn't expect the anti-Russian hysteria that their announcement would bring. Or the extent of this hysteria. Needless to say, even in Czechia, Russophobia is strong (although it is not omnipresent here) and nontrivial reasons to think that Russia has "helped" an explosion on our territory (that has killed two Czech citizens) was guaranteed to naturally energize the Russophobes. I am no Russophobe at all but of course I also find it essential for a country to defend its national interests and to prevent other countries from performing explosions on our territory! Or at least to have the courage to say that "such an explosion isn't quite kosher". ;-)

The reason why he and probably PM Babiš underestimated this looming reaction is that they probably know that in reality, Russia didn't really do anything back in 2014 whose purpose was to harm Czechia. As Babiš said in a widely mocked monologue, it wasn't an attack on us, it was just an attack on some goods. Meaning exlosives that were bought by a Bulgarian entrepreneur who could have used them in a problematic way, perhaps to harm Russians in Ukraine (we are talking about 2014). The explosion has accidentally occurred on our territory (it was planned for Bulgaria, Babiš once said). With all the data, there could have been pretty much zero reason for a wave of an anti-Russian hysteria in Czechia.

But given the known biases, it was pretty much guaranteed that all these "subtleties" would be totally suppressed by many journalists (and by their allies in politics) who would brainwash millions of people into thinking that we should behave as if we were already in the state of war against Russia (and our duty is to behave as little pooches and bark at Russia, expecting that our U.S. owner would caress us). And indeed, that has happened. From the perspective of the anti-Russian mood that spread in Czechia, it's unsurprising that many view Hamáček's plan to be highly unpatriotic. And some people use big words such as treason.

I am scared by the fanaticism that makes the people use these big words. If Kroupa's story is right, Hamáček only wanted to hide some new data about a (no longer relevant) 2014 explosion; get a million vaccines and save hundreds or thousands of Czech lives; and make Prague (and himself) a bit more famous by hosting another summit. It didn't work but Hamáček's plan could have been "good for us" and "invented out of his mostly good heart". Also, I find it absolutely obvious that by the texts that define treason, he couldn't have commited treason because he was neither harming Czechia as a country and its institutions; and he didn't contribute to an actual terrorist act to actually take place. Also, he wasn't covering up a crime from police and investigators (which is also a criminal act in many situations) – they already knew what they knew and, on the contrary, they have informed him.

It is not even clear whether his career is over. I guess that it is over. The plot is juicy and could be good enough for a rather thrilling movie. But I am much more terrified by the fanatics who would like to treat any sign of cooperation (or even a fair relationship) with Russia as an act of treason. The essence of these people's behavior is isomorphic to that of the Nazis or Stalinists – perhaps with some different signs (or a different phase in the complex plane).

Jan Hamáček clearly hasn't commited treason and I write it despite the fact that I think that he is a bad human being and a bad politician. The people who have been brainwashed and fanaticized should try to calm down and read the laws carefully and without twists and "improvements". It is spectacularly clear that he hasn't commited any of the "super serious" crimes that others accuse him from. It seems reasonably likely to me that he hasn't violated any laws at all – and whether you like it or not, the minister of interior has the right to classify similar findings. Such a classified status of some information from the intelligence services often has very good reasons that help the national interests and whether it was the case of this unsuccessful Moscow trip is a matter of opinions. Politicians simply must have similar powers, however.

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