Czechs expel 18 Russian diplomats, seek Skripal suspects over 2014 blast

EU’s Visegrad Four Hold Talks In Poland

Czech police said on Saturday that they are searching for two men carrying various passports, including Russian ones under the names Petrov, 41, and Boshirov, 43. It was followed months later by another big blast at a nearby warehouse with 98 tonnes of ammunition.

The Czech Republic has announced that it is expelling 18 Russian diplomats identified as spies over a huge ammunition depot explosion in 2014.

Members of the National Centre against Organised Crime of the Criminal Police and Investigation Service (NCOZ) published mugshots of the two suspects who are accused of operating in the country between October 11, 2014 and October 16, 2014.

Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček, who is also interim foreign minister, said on Twitter Sunday that he had instructed the country's European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ambassadors to inform allies, adding that he would discuss the case on Monday at a meeting of the EU's foreign ministers.

The Czech police said the two men were also using passports issued by Moldova for Nicolai Popa and a passport issued by Tajikistan for Ruslan Tabarov.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Saturday the Czech intelligence agencies had provided evidence about the involvement of Russian military agents in the massive explosion that killed two people.

"There is well-grounded suspicion about the involvement of officers of the Russian intelligence service GRU, unit 29155, in the explosion of ammunitions depot in the Vrbetice area", Babis said.

Czech Republic to Expel Russian Diplomats Suspected of Working for Russian Intelligence
Andrej Babis, the Czech prime minister, said the decision to expel the diplomats, came after an investigation into the explosions. Czech officials say these individuals are connected to two fatal explosions at military ammunition depots in Vrbetice in 2014.

Pictures of them issued by Czech police match those put out by United Kingdom police.

Information from the security services, he added, "will certainly be the basis for deciding who will be invited to the tender".

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: "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 risky and malign operations in Europe".

'We are in a situation similar to that in Britain following the attempted poisoning in Salisbury in 2018, ' he said, referring to the case of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal who survived a nerve agent poisoning in Britain.

Hamacek said he had summoned Russian ambassador Alexander Zmeyevsky on Saturday evening to tell him about the decision.

"The Czech Republic is a sovereign state and must adequately react to those unprecedented findings", Babis said.

The US said it was expelling 10 diplomats from the Russian Embassy in Washington DC on Thursday in response to a cyber-attack as well as other Russian activities.

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