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Adding to the growing anti-Russian campaign in Western countries, now 18 Russian diplomats were given 48 hours to leave the country for being "intelligence officers."
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that the reason for the move is the suspicion that Russian military intelligence officers were involved in the explosion of an ammunition depot in Vrbetice in 2014.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Prague was "fully aware" of the consequences of the decision to expel 18 employees of the Russian Embassy in the Czech Republic.
"It caused enormous damage ... But above all, two of our compatriots were killed there", Babis said. Interior Minister Jan Hamacek, who is also serving as the country's Foreign Minister, said the 18 Russian embassy staffers were clearly identified as Russian military spies and were ordered to leave the country within 48 hours.
The explosion took place on Oct. 16, 2014, in a depot in the town of Vrbetice that had 50 metric tons of ammunition stored, which claimed the two victims. Another explosion of 13 tons of ammunition occurred in the depot on Dec. 3 of that same year.
The Czech Republic expelled 18 Russian diplomats, Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek said Saturday, citing suspicion that Russian intelligence services were involved in a 2014 ammunition depot explosion. pic.twitter.com/SctLRSePpx
Meanwhile a Reuters report, based on Czech law enforcement information, indicates that the police had placed Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov on their wanted list. The two men have been accused by the United Kingdom of poisoning former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018,
Relations between Russia and the Czech Republic have been strained since last year, after a report by Czech magazine Respekt claimed that a Russian diplomat had tried to introduce ricin, a deadly poison, into tge country, allegedly to kill Czech politicians involved in the dismantling of a statue to a Soviet war hero in Prague. The tensions subsequently resulted in reciprocal expulsions of diplomats.
In 2018, Prague also expelled Russian diplomats over the Skripal case. Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in March 2018 in the UK city of Salisbury. The United Kingdom believes that Russia played a role in what it calls a murder attempt, an allegation Moscow has denied, citing lack of evidence incriminating Moscow.
#FromTheSouth News Bits | Iran and Russia have extended a comprehensive agreement until March 2026. The countries have deepened cooperation and mutual development, rejecting the unilateral sanctions imposed by hegemonic powers and U.S. interference in their internal affairs. pic.twitter.com/dNMVDDKLrd