Prague, May 4 (CTK) – The president should not release secret information, according to experts CTK addressed today in reaction to a TV interview in which President Milos Zeman presented Czech intelligence services’ information on Czech production and tests of the Novichok poison.
Former chief-of-staff Jiri Sedivy said the most accurate information about the substance called Novichok is that of the Defence Ministry that controls the Military Research Institute.
Political scientist Josef Mlejnek said the president should discuss his statements, which influence foreign policy, with the cabinet beforehand.
Political and security analyst Josef Kraus said Zeman’s statement that a small amount of Novichok was produced in the Czech Republic last November and liquidated immediately after the testing were unfortunate as they support the position of Russia instead of promoting Czech interests.
Russia previously dismissed the West’s accusation that it stands behind a Novichok attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain in March.
Kraus said Zeman released information that comes from intelligence services, which, for their part, are reluctant to confirm details. Zeman should not have released the information at all, Kraus said.
He said he does not expect Zeman’s statements to harm Czech-British relations because in the West, Zeman has the reputation of a man playing into the hands of Russia and the Russian interests.
Mlejnek said “the basic problem is if the president or any other senior official releases classified information.”
He referred to Defence Minister Karla Slechtova (for ANO), who said in reaction to Zeman’s words that her own information about the issue was subject to the regime of classification.
“It therefore seems that the president released a piece of information that was classified,” Mlejnek said.
The Foreign Ministry, too, said the information about the alleged presence of Novichok is mostly secret.
Sedivy said both the military intelligence service (VZ) and the civilian counter-intelligence service (BIS) labelled their reports they completed on Zeman’s request as secret.
“In the case of BIS, the report was subject to a low classification degree, but not even in this case its content can be cited [in public],” Sedivy said.
Mlejnek said Zeman’s words cast doubts on the previous statement of the Czech cabinet that Novichok was not produced in the Czech Republic.
“The president cannot make utterances without the cabinet knowing about it and only subsequently reacting to it in media,” Mlejnek said, adding that the cabinet, which is responsible for foreign policy, has no chance to correct the president’s statement.
“It can deny the president’s statement, but it has spread in the meantime. Naturally, it has mainly been used by Russia,” Mlejnek added.
Zeman said on commercial TV Barrandov on Thursday that the A230 nerve paralysing poison was tested in the Brno-seated Military Research Institute last November. He said the VZ labelled this substance as Novichok, while the BIS said Novichok, with which Skripal was attacked, is the poison known as A234.
Sedivy said a reliable analysis is kept by the Military Research Institute and the State Nuclear Safety Office (SUJB).
“These two institutions are the most competent to explain what is Novichok and what is not Novichok, or how close [the Czech-tested poison] is to the structure of the given substance,” Sedivy said.