Monday, 18 October, 2021


Czechia expels Russian diplomats over 2014 ammunition depot blast

EU’s Visegrad Four Hold Talks In Poland Andrej Babiš the Czech prime minister | Omar Marques Getty Images By Siegfried Mortkowitz
Noah Ferguson | 18 April, 2021, 16:36

The names matched those used by the two suspects in the attempted poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in the English city of Salisbury in 2018.

At the same time, police issued a request for assistance in searching for two individuals who it said were in the country between 11 October and 16 October 2014, first in Prague and then the area where the arms depot is located.

Petrov and Boshirov denied being Russian operatives or being involved in the Skripals' poisoning in March 2018. The men are wanted for their potential role in the 2014 explosion, the organised crime squad (NCOZ) said on its website.

These "unprecedented findings" point to the involvement of Russian military agents in the explosion that killed "two innocent fathers", Babis said.

They said the two also visited the capital of Prague and another northeastern Czech region.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek, who is also serving as the country's foreign minister, said the 18 Russian embassy staffers were clearly identified as spies from the Russian intelligence services known as GRU and SVR and were ordered to leave the country within 48 hours.

The Czech announcement came two days after the United States said it was expelling 10 Russian diplomats and imposing sanctions against several dozen people and companies, holding the Kremlin accountable for interference in last year's presidential election and the hacking of federal agencies.

Information from the security services, he added, "will certainly be the basis for deciding who will be invited to the tender". Now Czech authorities believe the same men were involved in the bombing of a warehouse in Vrbetice, in the east of the country. They killed two employees of a private company that was renting the depot from a state military organisation. "I will also speak about it at the European Union foreign ministers meeting on Monday", Hamacek tweeted.

The crisis has already had a wider impact of Czech-Russian relations.

The duo were suspected of being behind the Salisbury Novichok poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in 2018.

On Thursday, the Czech Republic's neighbour Poland said it had expelled three Russian diplomats for "carrying out activities to the detriment" of Poland.

Earlier this week the United States announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats in retaliation for what Washington said was the Kremlin's USA election interference, a massive cyber attack and other hostile activity.

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