Russia Ran Hacking Operations In Prague, Where Dossier Says Michael Cohen Went To Pay Hackers

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The Steele Dossier, a collection of private intelligence reports by former British intelligence officer and Russia expert Christopher Steele, alleged that Donald Trump’s now-former personal lawyer and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, traveled to the Czech Republic in the summer of 2016, possibly to pay off Russian agents who engage in hacking operations against Democrats that helped tilt the presidential election toward Trump.

Cohen has repeatedly denied the allegation, claiming that he has never visited Prague in any capacity at any point in his life, issuing his most recent denial in sworn testimony before the House Oversight Committee last month, as CNN reported.

But new revelations on Sunday, while not directly involving Cohen, showed that there were, in fact, Russian computer hackers based in Prague and had been for “several years,” according to Czech investigative journalist Ondrej Kundra, writing on his Twitter account.

Kundra reported that the Russian FSB — the security service that is the successor to the Soviet Union’s infamous KGB — “launched two undercover private firms in Prague, posing as regular IT companies. In reality, they served as hacking entities.”

The journalist added that it was not until 2018 that Czech counter-intelligence broke up the Russian intelligence hacking operation.

Prague as it appears at night.
The historic city of Prague, as it appears at night.Featured image credit: Sean GallupGetty Images

Kundra published his revelations in the Czech magazine, Respekt Weekly. In the article, he quoted Russian-born former Czech government official Alexei Keli, saying that he was “not surprised” to learn that Russians were running intelligence operations based in Prague, adding that a number of Russians had settled in Prague and obtained Czech citizenship — and some of those citizens were among the Russian spies in the hacking operation.

Journalist Scott Stedman, author of the upcoming book on the Trump-Russia investigation, Real News, noted on his Twitter account that Steele in the dossier had “implied” that Prague was a “hub” for Russian hackers.

“Well… He was right,’ Stedman wrote.

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“The dossier says Michael Cohen went to Prague to pay off Russian hackers in 2016,” wrote Atlantic Monthly reporter Natasha Bertrand, an expert on the Trump-Russia investigation, on her Twitter account.

“Now we learn — according to this story — that the FSB had two hacking entities operating there, undercover, until 2018.”

Despite his sworn statement that he has never been to Prague, some doubt has been cast on Cohen’s claim previously. Mother Jones reporter David Corn said in 2018 that Cohen told him that he had, in fact, visited Prague in his lifetime.

“I haven’t been to Prague in 14 years,” Cohen said in a phone interview, according to Corn. “I was in Prague for one afternoon 14 years ago.”

But his story then changed to say that he had never visited Prague at all.