Czechs wary of Russian meddling in presidential election

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With the Czech Republic’s presidential election slated for January 12, some of the country’s leaders are warning of Russian meddling and misinformation campaigns.

Tomáš Prouza, the Czech government’s state secretary for European affairs, told CNN at least 40 pro-Kremlin websites are operating in the country. An investigation found some of the sites were financed by “people who are connected to Russia.” Prouza said Russia’s ultimate goal is to bring the Czech Republic “back into the Russian sphere of influence.” (Business Insider)

In January 2017, the Czech Republic established the Center Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats to combat misinformation and safeguard the country’s parliamentary election of the same year (Washington Post).

A report released Wednesday by U.S. Senate Democrats chronicles Russian political meddling in 19 countries, including misinformation campaigns and funding of far-right political causes long before 2016 (New York Times).

Ivan Gabal, a former member of the Czech parliament’s defense and security committees, said Moscow has tried to influence the Czech Republic for many years (Financial Times). Gabal said debate over the issue became more serious after widespread reports of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and EU referendum in the UK(Wired)

“Before this, people saw (Czechs) as obsessed with the Russians,” he said.

President Milos Zeman leads in the polls for the upcoming election against eight challengers (Voice of America), but will need more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff election. Zeman has campaigned for closer ties with Russia, is a fierce critic of Muslim immigration and was an early supporter of Donald J. Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

This is an emerging story which needs expansion if you wish to EDIT to add information or discuss it in TALK.

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