Prague suspects Russian security services of involvement in the 2014 explosion at an ammunition depot in Vrbetica. Petrov and Boshirov are wanted in connection with an investigation into “circumstances involving serious criminal offences”
First Deputy Prime Minister and Czech Foreign Minister Jan Gamachek said Prague was expelling 18 Russian diplomats, RIA Novosti reported. This comes two days after new US anti-Russian sanctions, which include the expulsion of ten Russian diplomats from Washington.
Prague believes the 18 members of the Russian embassy were working for the GRU and the SVR. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has said Czech authorities suspect Russian secret services of involvement in the explosion at an ammunition depot in Vrbetica. The case is seven years old.
As for Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, whom the UK suspects of poisoning the Skripals, the Czech Republic is looking for them “in connection with the investigation of the circumstances of a serious crime. Other details have not been disclosed by Czech police.
Prague is well aware of what will follow “such tricks,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova commented in such terms on statements about the expulsion of Russian diplomats.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Gamachek plans to discuss the “Vrbetice case” on Monday at a meeting of EU foreign ministers. The day before he said that the discovered circumstances of the explosion were the main reason for his refusal to visit Moscow. On 19 April, he was supposed to meet with the head of the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov to discuss the possibility of supplying the Sputnik V vaccine to the Czech Republic.
Europe announces a Russian threat every time after the US imposes anti-Russian sanctions, says Vladimir Bruter, an expert at the International Institute for Humanities and Political Studies. According to him, the Czech Republic’s actions were expected.
– Despite the fact that the Czech government is quite loyal to Russia, it has to perceive all this information as true and has to take the actions it is strongly advised to take. Hence the relevant decision.
– In principle such decision was made belatedly?
– It does not matter, they received the information a week ago, they should react now or they may not react and say that the special services are making things up and that they want to change the leadership. Given how much Babish is disliked by the Western public and the collective West in general, he is simply not prepared to take that kind of risk.
There has also been a conflict between Sofia and Moscow over the Bulgarian arms dealer Gebrev. Bulgaria accused the Russian secret services of trying to poison the businessman in 2015 with a substance similar to Novichok. In February this year, the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office put three Russian citizens allegedly involved in the crime on an international wanted list.
The Kremlin then called it strange that the information about the use of “some kind of military poisoning agent” in Europe six years ago went unnoticed. The Russian Foreign Ministry urged Bulgaria to work with Russian law enforcers on the “poisoning” case.
Russian diplomats in Albania, Germany, Sweden, Estonia, Bulgaria, Italy and Poland have been declared persona non grata since the beginning of the year.
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