(Prague) The Czech Foreign Minister said, Saturday, that the Czech Republic will expel 18 workers at the Russian embassy, whom its intelligence services have identified as agents of the Moscow spy agency.
Czech police said shortly afterwards that they were looking for two men with Russian passports bearing the same identities as the suspects in an attempt to poison Novichok by former double agent Sergei Skripal in Britain in 2018.
Police said on their website that the two men were wanted for their alleged role in an ammunition warehouse explosion that killed two in 2014.
Minister Jan Hamask told reporters earlier that “18 Russian embassy employees must leave our republic within 48 hours.”
For his part, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that his country had “irrefutable evidence” of the involvement of Russian military intelligence agents in the bombing of an ammunition depot that killed two people in 2014.
“We have good reason to believe that agents of GRU 29155 were involved in the explosion of an ammunition depot in Verbatis,” the prime minister said.
He said he received this information on Friday.
“The explosion caused massive material damage and endangered the lives of many people, but first of all, it killed two of our citizens,” added Mr. Babis.
The Vrbetice explosion occurred on October 16, 2014 in a warehouse containing 58 tons of ammunition. Another explosion followed in December of the same year in a warehouse containing 98 tons of ammunition.
The suspects in the Scribal case
The Czech Organized Crime Unit (NCOZ) indicated that the two wanted men of Russian citizenship are Alexander Petrov, born in 1979, and Ruslan Bouchirov, born in 1978, who are the same wanted agents of the United Kingdom. United in the Scribal case.
NCOZ argued that “the two men were in Czech territory in October 2014” when the Vrbetice explosion occurred, adding that they also had passports from Tajikistan and Moldova.
The Czech Prime Minister said that the decision to expel 18 Russian diplomats had the full support of Czech President Milos Zeman.
Zeman, a pro-Russian one, has repeatedly criticized the country’s intelligence services for accusing Russia of being involved in the recent cyber attacks against the Czech Foreign Ministry, among other targets.
These discoveries “will harm Russian-Czech relations,” as Mr. Hamachik lamented, who had just replaced his pro-European counterpart Thomas Petrichik in foreign affairs while retaining his duties as Minister of the Interior.
President Zeman fired Mr Petrich on Monday after opposing the use of the Russian COVID-19 Sputnik V vaccine without the European green light.
Petrechik, a pro-European social democrat, also criticized Russia’s potential participation in a nuclear project.
“We find ourselves in a situation similar to what happened in the United Kingdom following the attempted poisoning in Salisbury in 2018,” added Hamachik, referring to the case of Sergei Skripal, a former double agent who survived a Russian attack. Services on British soil.
Hamachik said he had summoned the Russian ambassador, Alexander Zmiyevsky, on Saturday evening.
Poland announced Thursday that it had expelled three Russian diplomats accused of committing “hostile acts” after the United States took similar measures in response to a series of actions blamed on Moscow.
On Thursday, Washington announced a new wave of sanctions against Russia, in response to a series of actions it blames for it, including massive cyberattacks and interference in the US presidential election in November. Moscow denies any involvement.
Russia announced on Friday that it would expel ten US diplomats in response.