Czech Republic preparing another expulsion of Russian diplomats, - media

Source : 112 Ukraine

The requirement to leave the country will not apply to the Ambassador of the Russian Federation Alexander Zmeevsky
13:46, 21 April 2021

Open source

The Czech Republic threatened to expel all Russian diplomats from Prague, accusing Moscow of orchestrating an "unprecedented terror attack" on Czech territory in 2014. This is reported by TASS.

"I am ready for everything. Even to build relationships from scratch. Which means we would send them all home," Foreign and Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said on Facebook.

Czech lawmakers endorsed the move, calling on the government to "reset relationships with the Russian Federation and significantly cut diplomat numbers at the Russian embassy in line with the principle of reciprocity".

Hamacek had earlier told reporters he would summon the Russian ambassador to disclose further steps after the expulsion this weekend of 18 Russian diplomats believed by Prague to be secret agents, and of 20 Czechs from Moscow in retaliation.

"We are calling for collective action of EU and NATO countries aimed at solidarity expulsions," Hamacek said.

The call comes after Prague accused Russian secret services of being behind an explosion at an ammunition depot near the eastern village of Vrbetice in 2014 that killed two people.

Related: Ukraine, UK to expand military training operation Orbital

Czech police are seeking two men in connection with the blast, along with a second non-fatal explosion in the Czech Republic in 2014. The men have also been identified as suspects in the 2018 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis called the 2014 explosion "an unprecedented terror attack on our territory which is unacceptable".

He apologised for having remarked a day earlier that the explosion did not appear to be an act of state terrorism, as it targeted goods owned by a Bulgarian arms dealer.

The Russian diplomats who were expelled left their posts at the sprawling Russian embassy in Prague on Monday, as did the staff ordered to leave the much smaller Czech representation in Moscow.

"We have expelled 18 officers of the (secret services) SVR and GRU and we are able to prove that every single one of them was just that," Hamacek said.

He said he had summoned Russian Ambassador Alexander Zmeyevsky to protest against what Prague views as a disproportionate response in expelling 20 Czech diplomats from Moscow.

"It is only logical that if the Czech Republic takes further action, the Russian ambassador must be the first to hear it," Hamacek said.

A NATO official told AFP the Czech ambassador to the alliance briefed his counterparts on the expulsions, adding "allies will consult on the situation with the Czech foreign minister later this week".

Related: US Senate Committee to approve bill on increase of American military aid for Ukraine

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