Prague/Kiev - Only one Czech citizen so far has publicly admitted having joined Ukraine's pro-Russian separatists – physical education teacher Ivo Stejskal from Brno. “I am a Slav, and Slavs are fighting here. After I saw what happened in Odessa, I couldn't stay calm,” Stejskal told Russia's Channel One in reference to riots and a fire that killed almost 50 people in the southern Ukrainian city in May. Stejskal added that men from Italy, Serbia and other countries had joined the separatists too.
The Security Information Service (BIS), the Czech Republic's top security agency, refuses to tell how many Czech nationals have joined military conflicts in Ukraine, Syria and other countries.
“The intelligence agency is not in a position to publicly answer the specific question of how many Czech citizens are involved in the military conflicts in Ukraine or Syria. Nonetheless, it cannot be guaranteed that not one Czech citizen is, for example, involved on either of the two sides in Syria. We are intensely addressing these emerging questions,” said BIS spokesman Jan Subert.
Subert says that there is no way to prevent people from leaving the country to fight abroad. “If somebody has no criminal record, there is no legal way to stop them from leaving the country. But we are doing our best to find out if some radical, who has fought and gained military training and experience abroad, is coming back to the country. Such a person could carry out violent actions in the Czech Republic. But so far we do not know about any Czech citizen who has fought abroad and now wants to return home,” said Subert.
Experts estimate that as much as 20 Czech nationals, some of them with military training from the Czech Republic, are fighting alongside Ukraine's separatists.
“The fact that some Czech nationals are fighting in Ukraine is beyond any doubt. And it would be definitely good to know what exactly are they doing there,” said former military intelligence chief Andor Sandor, adding that Czech fighters in Ukraine represent less security risk than British or French Muslims fighting in Iraq or Syria.
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