Czechs to discuss alleged Russian link to 2014 blast with EU

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The Czech Republic is informing its NATO and European Union allies about suspected Russian involvement in a 2014 ammunition depot explosion and will discuss the matter at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday, acting Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek said on Twitter on Sunday.

The central European country expelled 18 Russian embassy staff on Saturday and said that investigations linked Russian intelligence to the explosion, which killed two people.

The expulsions and allegations by Prague have triggered its biggest dispute with Russia since the end of the communist era in 1989.

The Interfax news agency cited Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the Russian upper house’s international affairs committee, on Saturday as saying Prague’s claims were absurd and Russia’s response should be proportionate.

Separately, Czech police said on Saturday they were searching for two men in connection with serious criminal activity carrying Russian passports in the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, and that the men were in the country in days leading up to the blast.

Those were the aliases used by two Russian military intelligence officers who British prosecutors charged with the attempted poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the nerve agent Novichok in the English city of Salisbury in 2018. Moscow denied involvement in that incident.

The U.S. embassy in Prague said on Twitter on Saturday that Washington “stands with its steadfast ally, the Czech Republic. We appreciate their significant action to impose costs on Russia for its dangerous actions on Czech soil”.

Photo: Czech Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek (L) and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis (R) address a joint press conference, at the Czernin Palace in Prague, Czech Republic after all Russian diplomats who were identified as members of the Russian secret services GRU and SVR were given 48 hours to leave the Czech Republic. EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK

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