Published: Sun, April 18, 2021
Sport | By

Czechia expels Russian diplomats over 2014 ammunition depot blast

Czechia expels Russian diplomats over 2014 ammunition depot blast

The Czech Republic said on Sunday it had informed North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union allies about suspected Russian involvement in a 2014 ammunition depot explosion and the matter would be addressed at an EU foreign ministers' meeting on Monday.

Two men using the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, formally accused in Britain of attempting to murder former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in 2018, are seen in an image handed out by the Metropolitan Police in London, Britain, September 5, 2018.

The explosion occurred at an ammunition factory in in the town of Vrbetice, some 330 kilometers (205 miles) southeast of Prague, in October 2014.

It comes as Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said 18 Russian diplomats are being expelled over allegations that Russian intelligence services were involved in an explosion at a Czech ammunition depot in 2014.

'We are in a situation similar to that in Britain following the attempted poisoning in Salisbury in 2018, ' he said, referring to the case of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal who survived a nerve agent poisoning in Britain.

"The Czech Republic is a sovereign state and must respond accordingly to these unprecedented findings", Babiš said. Another explosion of 13 tons of ammunition occurred in the depot on December 3 of that same year.

The expelled, who were allegedly "identified as members of the Russian secret services", will have to leave the Czech Republic within 48 hours, said Czech Interior Minister and also acting Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek.

Two men using the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov formally accused in Britain of attempting to murder former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in 2018 are seen in an image handed out by the Metropolitan Poli

Babis said President Milos Zeman, who is known for his pro-Russian views, has been informed about the development and has "expressed absolute support for us".

A diplomatic source cited by Russian news agency Interfax suggested the expulsions could prompt Russia to shut the Czech Republic's embassy in Moscow.

Hamacek said the the case will significantly harm Czech-Russian relations.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said her country would answer the Czech move.

Czech Police said in a statement that they are looking for "two persons" who "used at least two identities.in connection with the investigations of the circumstances of serious crime".

Russia's Interfax news agency cited Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the Russian upper house's worldwide affairs committee, on Saturday as saying Prague's assertions were absurd and Russia's response should be proportionate.

According to Czech police they were first in Prague, and later in the Morovian-Silesian region and then finally in the Zlin region.


Like this: