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Czech Republic expels 18 Russian diplomats over Moscow’s alleged involvement in 2014 explosion

The Czech Republic is expelling 18 Russian diplomats over suspicions that Russian intelligence services were involved in an ammunition depot explosion in 2014, its government said on Saturday.

The central European country is a NATO and EU member state, and the expulsions and allegations have triggered its most giant row with Russia since the end of the communist era in 1989.

A diplomatic source cited by Russian news agency Interfax suggested its actions could prompt Russia to close the Czech Republic’s embassy in Moscow.

In a briefing shown live on television, Czech prime minister Andrej Babis said that there was “well-grounded suspicion about the involvement of officers of the Russian intelligence service GRU… in the explosion of an ammunition depot in the Vrbetice area.”

Several explosions shook the Vrbetice depot, 330 km southeast of Prague, in October 2014, killing two employees of a private company renting the site from a state military organization.


Mr. Babis called the circumstances “unprecedented and scandalous”, while a Russian lawmaker cited by Interfax described his allegation as absurd.

ON TWITTER, the US embassy in Prague said that Washington “stands with its steadfast Ally, the Czech Republic. We appreciate their significant action to impose costs on Russia for its dangerous actions on Czech soil.”

Acting Czech Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek said the 18 Russian embassy staff, identified as secret service personnel, would be ordered to leave within 48 hours.

Link to Skripal poisoning?

Jan Hamacek drew a parallel with the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain in 2018. Czech police Skripal’srately they were searching for two men carrying Russian passports concerning”serious criminal activity in the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Those were the aliases used by two Russian militarRussia’sigence officers who British pr”secutors charged with Mr. Skripal’s attempted murder.

They and Moscow both denied ihouse’sent.

Mr. Hamacek said he had “decided to Prague’sl personnel at the RussiRussia’ssy in Prague who were identified by our secret services as officers of Russia’s secret services, SVR and GRU.”

The Interfax news agency cited Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the upper house’s international affairs committee, saying Prague’s claims were absurd and Russia’s response should be proportionate. Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent in Salisbury in March 2018.

Since the Cold War, the attack prompted the most significant wave of diplomatic expulsions between Moscow and the West. Czech police said Mr. Petrov and Mr. Boshirov, whose birth names British government documents have given as Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga, had also used a Moldovan passport in the name of Nicolai Popa and a Tajik one issued in the name of Ruslan Tabarov. Police said both men were believed to have been in the Czech Republic from October 11 until October 16, 2014, the explosion day.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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