London Supports Prague’s Decision to Expel 18 Russian Diplomats

Moscow, Apr 18 (FN Agency) The United Kingdom supports the Czech Republic’s decision to expel 18 Russian diplomats over the alleged involvement of Russian secret services in the October 2014 explosion at an ammunition depot in the town of Vrbetice, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek on Saturday announced the expulsion of the diplomats, who were obliged to leave the country within 48 hours. Prime Minister Andrej Babis explained that the move was prompted by “a reasonable suspicion” Russian military intelligence officers had something to do with the explosion. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded by saying that Prague knows well what will follow. Meanwhile, the Czech police put on their wanted list Russian nationals Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, suspected by London of carrying out a nerve agent attack on former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK’s Salisbury in March 2018.

“The UK stands in full support of our Czech allies, who have exposed the lengths that the Russian intelligence services will go to in their attempts to conduct dangerous and malign operations in Europe. This shows a pattern of behaviour by Moscow, following the Novichok attack in Salisbury. My sympathies are with the families of the victims in Vrbetice,” Raab said in a statement. In 2018, Skripal and his daughter Yulia were hospitalized in the UK. London has accused Moscow of trying to poison the ex-spy with the A234 nerve agent, known in the West as Novichok, while Russian officials have refuted the allegations and stressed that Moscow was denied access to the investigation and the Skripals themselves.

According to Czech media, the 2014 blast, which killed two Czech nationals, was allegedly supposed to prevent ammunition shipments to Ukraine amid Kiev’s armed conflict with the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in the east of Ukraine. The Czech police claim that the two Russians were supposed to be in the country in October 2014 – first in Prague, and then in the Moravian-Silesian region and the Zlin region.