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Foreign Minister Thinks Czech Agents Benefited From Skripal Meetings

Czech Foreign Minister Says Skripal Visit To Prague 'Logical'
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PRAGUE -- Czech Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky says he believes his country's intelligence services benefited from being briefed six years ago by Sergei Skripal, the Russian former double agent who was poisoned with a nerve toxin along with his daughter in England in March.

Stropnicky told RFE/RL on May 14 that he thought Skripal's secret talks with Czech agents in Prague in 2012 were "on the normal basis of cooperation" between the intelligence services of the Czech Republic and Great Britain.

"Great Britain is known as a country with high-quality information services," Stropnicky said.

"As an exchange, or a kind of cooperation, it seems to me quite logical," he said, adding that he didn't know details about the information Skripal shared with Czech operatives.

"I can imagine [it was useful] because I would never expect that the British would send some kind of problematic man," Stopnicky said. "There was a reason for it, probably."

Skripal was a member of Russia's GRU military intelligence in the 1990s when he acted as a double agent for Britain.

He was arrested by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) in December 2004 and sentenced to 13 years in prison after being convicted of high treason in the form of espionage. He was accused of revealing the identities of Russian intelligence agents working in Europe.

But Russia freed him in 2010 and sent him to Britain as part of a spy swap for 10 Russian agents who'd been arrested in the United States.

Britain has accused Russia of using a rare, toxic nerve agent that had been manufactured by the Soviet Union to try to assassinate Skripal in the southern English city of Salisbury on March 4.

The Kremlin denies the allegation, but a diplomatic dispute over the case has led to the expulsion of more than 150 Russian diplomats from two dozen Western countries.

A May 14 report in The New York Times about Skripal's contacts in NATO countries after his release in the spy swap suggests his poisoning may have been an act of retribution for working with Western intelligence agents to foil Russian espionage operations in Europe after 2010.

The report says Skripal briefed Czech intelligence officers at a secret meeting in Prague in 2012 about the kinds of spy tricks used by Russian agents he had known.

It said Skripal met with Czech intelligence officials on several occasions and also visited Estonia in 2016 to brief Estonian spies.

The New York Times also reported that Skripal's briefings on Russia were "almost certainly approved and possibly facilitated" by Britain as a way to "both educate their allies and provide Skripal with income."

Written by Ron Synovitz with reporting by Ray Furlong
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