Saturday, 19 June, 2021


Czech Republic expels 18 Russian embassy staff

Image Reuters The national flag flutters on top of the Russian embassy in Prague Czech Republic Image Reuters The national flag flutters on top of the Russian embassy in Prague Czech Republic
Patty Aguilar | 18 April, 2021, 13:57

The Czech government is expelling 18 Russian diplomats after concluding Moscow's military intelligence service was involved in a massive 2014 explosion at an ammunition warehouse that killed two people.

Andrej Babis, the Czech prime minister, said the decision to expel the diplomats, came after an investigation into the explosions.

"The Czech Republic is a sovereign state and has to respond to the unprecedented findings [of the investigation] appropriately", Mr Babis added.

The Czech Republic's Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Jan Hamacek plans to discuss the incident in the country's Vrbětice at the European Union foreign ministers' meeting on Monday.

The explosion happened on 16 October at a depot in the town of Vrbetice where 50 tonnes of ammunition was being stored.

Czech police said on Saturday that they are searching for two men carrying various passports, including Russian ones under the names Petrov, 41, and Boshirov, 43.

A diplomatic source cited by Interfax suggested the expulsions could prompt Russian Federation to shut the Czech Republic's embassy in Moscow. The explosions killed two employees of a private company that was renting the depot from a state military organization. Following the attack in England, investigative journalists identified Petrov and Boshirov as aliases for Russian military intelligence officers named Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga.

Petrov and Boshirov denied being Russian operatives or being involved in the Skripals' poisoning in March 2018. The expulsions and allegations by the Czechs have triggered its biggest dispute with Russian Federation since the 1989 end of Communist rule, when Prague was under Moscow's domination for decades.

The expulsion of the Russian diplomats comes just days after Poland said it had kicked out three Russian diplomats for "activities detrimental" to the country, and the USA expelled 10 Russian diplomats over the Kremlin's alleged election interference and hacking of federal agencies.

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