Moscow / Prague — Moscow expelled 20 Czech diplomats on Sunday, and two Russian spies accused of nerve gas poisoning in the UK in 2018 previously killed two in a Czech ammunition depot. Conflict over the Czech claim that it was behind the explosion.
Prague ordered 18 Russian diplomats on Saturday and urged Russia on Sunday to pledge to “make the author of this provocation fully understand the responsibility of destroying the foundations of normal relations between the two countries.”
Moscow gave Czech diplomats just one day to leave, while Prague gave Russians 72 hours.
The Czech Republic said it had informed NATO and its allies of the European Union that Russia was suspected of causing the 2014 explosion, and the European Union’s foreign minister was scheduled to discuss the issue at a meeting on Monday.
The US State Department praised Prague’s firm response to “Russia’s destructive actions on Czech soil.”
This line is the largest between Prague and Moscow since the end of the decades when the Soviets ruled Eastern Europe in 1989.
It also spurred heightened tensions between Russia and the West, and Russia’s military power at the Western border and Crimea, which Moscow merged from Ukraine in 2014 after a surge in battle between the government and pro-Russia. Ukrainian eastern army partially caused by the reinforcement of.
Russia said the accusation in Prague was ridiculous because it had accused the owner of the depot of a blast in Vulvietice, 300 km (210 miles) east of the capital.
It accused Prague of “striving to please the United States against the backdrop of recent US sanctions on Russia,” and called the expulsion “a continuation of a series of anti-Russian actions carried out by the Czech Republic in recent years.”
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said the attack was aimed at transporting to Bulgarian arms dealers.
“This was an attack on ammunition that had already been paid and stored for Bulgarian arms dealers,” he told Czech Television.
He said the weapons merchant he didn’t name was later the target of attempted murder.
Bulgarian prosecutors indicted three Russian men in 2020 in an attempt to kill the arms dealer Emilian Gebreff, who was identified by the Czech media as the same individual. Reuters was unable to contact Gebrev for comment.
Czech police said two men, named Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, had traveled to the Czech Republic a few days before the arsenal exploded.
These names are the two Russian GRU military intelligence that Britain wanted in 2018 in Salisbury, Britain, because former Russian spy Sergey Scripal and his daughter poisoned Novichok, a nerve agent of the Soviet era. It was the alias used by the staff. However, a member of the general public has died.
The Kremlin has denied involvement in the case, and there are still many attackers.
Czech Interior and Foreign Minister Jan Hamáček said police knew the two from the beginning.
Hamacek said Prague would ask Moscow for help when asking them, but did not expect it to cooperate.
“Dangerous and malignant”
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab tweeted that the Czechs “exposed the length that the GRU would go to carry out dangerous and malicious operations.”
NATO officials said the alliance would assist the Czech Republic in investigating Russia’s “malicious activity” as part of a pattern of “dangerous behavior.”
“The person in charge must be brought to justice,” added an unnamed official.
The United States imposed sanctions on Russia on Thursday for interfering with last year’s US elections, cyber hacking, Ukrainian bullying, and other actions, urging Moscow to retaliate.
On Sunday, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Alexei Navalny, a representative of the opposition who died almost last year, died in prison after being given a toxin that Western experts said was Novichok. Washington said it had “results” in Moscow. Hunger strike is in progress.
The 2014 incident resurfaced at a difficult time for Prague and Moscow.
The Czech Republic plans to bid for the construction of a new nuclear power plant at the Dukovany complex.
Security services have demanded that Russia’s Rosatom be excluded as a security risk, with President Miloshzemann and other senior officials claiming Russia’s claim.
“It is very unlikely that Rosatom will participate in the expansion of Dukovani,” Industry Minister Karel Havlíchek, who had previously agreed to include Russia, told Reuters in a text message.
Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Robert Muller