At the end of January, incumbent president Milos Zeman faces a tight run-off in the second round of the presidential elections in the Czech Republic. His competitor is Jiří Drahoš, former Head of the Academy of Sciences. Their views on the geopolitical direction of the Czech Republic are diametrically different.
Who is Miloš Zeman?
Miloš Zeman is a Kremlin´s Trojan Horse in the Czech Republic. He helps spread the Kremlin´s narratives internationally and domestically, and is present in the Russian information space as a supporter of Vladimir Putin´s regime, he supports confederates, extremists and pro-Kremlin disinformers and he tries to sabotage the Czech government´s policy towards the Russian Federation. He continually denies Russian military presence in the separatist regions of Ukraine, he considers the annexation of Crimea to be a done deal and he has a strong disrespect for serious journalism.
What is the connection between Miloš Zeman and Russia?
Zeman surrounds himself with advisers who are clearly linked to Russian business, using their positions to get to sensitive information (even without security clearances) and lobby for strategic contracts to be given to Russian firms, for example in the energy sector. The Russian company Lukoil paid a fine for Zeman’s economic aide, Mr. Nejedlý, when he sold jet fuel from strategic reserves. Nejedlý now works as a middle-man between the President and Russian interests, especially in the energy sector.
What campaign does Miloš Zeman lead?
According to his words, non. However, according to his transparent account, his allegedly non-existent campaign has received around 9 million CZK from the club Friends of Miloš Zeman, without fully disclosing how it collected the money. Between the 1st and 2nd round, the Czech Republic has been flooded with billboards suggesting Zeman can save the Czech Republic from the flood of (Syrian?) refugees.
What relationship does Miloš Zeman have with the disinformation community?
Miloš Zeman is the most ardent sympathizer of the disinformation webpages, mostly with pro-Kremlin stances, which he considers trustworthy. His support goes hand in hand with his loud criticism of the Czech public broadcaster Czech Television (and other mainstream media) which he regularly accuses of being biased. He is also known for his negative attitude towards journalists and critical media outlets. Consequently, a symbiosis developed between the president and the disinformation community in the last few years. The former legitimizes the latter, which in turn supports him during election campaigns.
What are the main topics of the disinformation campaigns before the elections?
The main target of the disinformation campaign is the presidential candidate Jiří Drahoš, who has been accused of being a collaborator of the State Security of Czechoslovakia although he has a lustration certificate, but also of being in favour of immigration of Muslims and therefore allegedly inviting terrorists into our country or being the candidate of the “globalized elites” or Brussels. Some disinformation webpages also claimed that Prof. Drahoš works with German Chancellor Angela Merkel against the Czech nation and that if elected, he will push Czechs to adopt the euro and to place US troops on Czech territory.
What is Zeman doing prior to the second round of the elections?
He is meeting with U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Mr. Rohrabacher has been investigated for his strong connections to the Kremlin, allegedly getting compromising materials on Hillary Clinton from a Russian oligarch Vladimir Jakunin, who is also a good friend of Miloš Zeman.