Czech President: Russia not necessarily behind 2014 ammunition blast

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PRAGUE, April 25 (Reuters) – Czech President Milos Zeman said on Sunday the idea that Russian spies caused a 2014 ammunition dump explosion in the central European country was just one of two theories and the possibility it was an accident should not be ruled out.

Zeman’s statement came just over a week after the government sparked a row with Moscow by saying it suspected that two Russian spies accused of a nerve agent poisoning in Britain in 2018 were also behind the Czech 2014 explosion that killed two people.

Moscow has denied any role in either event.

Zeman said in a pre-recorded speech there were two theories.

“We are working with two investigative theories – the first, original one, that there was an explosion resulting from inexpert handling of explosives, and the second that it was an operation of a foreign intelligence service,” he said in the speech, carried on Prima television.

“I take both of these theories seriously and I wish for them to be thoroughly investigated,” he said.

Zeman, the head of state who appoints prime ministers but is not involved in the day-to-day running of the country, has often taken pro-Russian views. He has argued for the purchase of Russian Sputnik V vaccines and for inviting Russia’s Rosatom to take part in a tender to build a nuclear power station.

Zeman said Rosatom should be excluded from the tender if Russia’s involvement in the explosion is proven. The government has already said it would not include the company.

The Czech government expelled 18 Russian diplomats and other embassy staff it identified as spies last week, which Zeman said he supported.

It ordered a further 63 diplomats and Russian staff to leave by the end of May, to bring the Prague Russian embassy to the same level as its Czech counterpart in Moscow.

Moscow retaliated by ordering out 20 Czech diplomats and staff, and also requiring the Czechs to cut by May about 90 Russian support staff working at the Czech embassy and a complex including a hotel for Czech visitors to Moscow. (Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Michael Kahn; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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