Moscow rejects Prague’s accusations and expels 20 Czech diplomats

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On Sunday, Russia announced the expulsion of 20 employees of the Czech embassy in Moscow. Retaliation is expected after Prague expels Russian diplomats accused of espionage and sabotage.

The Russian reprisals did not take long. Twenty employees of the Czech Embassy in Moscow have been declared “persona non grata” and are expected to leave the country before the end of the day, Monday, April 19.

The announcement was made on Sunday, April 18th by the Russian Foreign Ministry after summoning the Czech ambassador to Moscow, Vetislav Pivonka. This action comes the day after the expulsion of 18 Russian diplomats by the Czech Republic, which accuses them of espionage.

Moscow described the decision of the Czech authorities as “unprecedented” and denounced the “unfounded and far-fetched” accusations against its diplomats.

‘Irrefutable evidence’

The ministry added, “This hostile step is a continuation of a series of anti-Russian measures undertaken by the Czech Republic in recent years. We can only see traces of the United States.”

Besides the expulsion of 18 Russian diplomats who have been identified as agents of the spy service in Moscow, Prague confirmed on Saturday that it had “irrefutable evidence” indicating that Russian military intelligence agents were involved in the bombing of an ammunition depot in Vrbtis, killing two people. In 2014.

Czech police say they are looking for two men with Russian passports for their alleged role in the explosion, and the same names as the suspects in the attempt to poison Novichok by former double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, Great Britain, Brittany, in 2018.

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Protesters in Prague

In Prague, protesters smeared ketchup on the wall of the Russian embassy on Sunday.

“The killing of Czech citizens on their lands by another country is almost an act of war,” Tomas Bezynski, one of the protesters, told AFP.

Nearly 100 people held banners reading “We are not Russia’s backyard” and chanted “Shame” while waving European Union and NATO flags.

The day before, police had arrested seven people who had already smeared the embassy wall with ketchup in blood.

The two Russians who allegedly sabotaged ammunition depots, Alexander Myshkin and Anatoly Chebighov, were identified based on video footage from the site.

London support

On Sunday, London expressed its support for the Czech Republic in this regard.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement that “the United Kingdom fully supports its Czech allies, who have revealed the extent of the Russian intelligence’s readiness to go to carry out dangerous and malicious operations in Europe.”

“We are more determined and committed than ever to bringing those responsible for the Salisbury attack to justice, and we welcome actions by the Czech authorities to do the same,” the British foreign secretary added, adding, “Russia must renounce these actions that violate the most basic international standards.”

Despite London’s conclusions in this regard, Moscow has always denied any involvement in the Skripal case.

On Thursday, the British Foreign Office summoned the Russian ambassador in London over “malicious activities” attributed to Moscow, including cyber attacks and troop movements on the Ukrainian border.

With Agence France-Presse

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