International

Czechs expel Russian embassy staff, PM says suspected Russian link to ammunition explosion

Reuters PRAGUE 18 April 2021 02:40 IST
Updated: 18 April 2021 00:47 IST

Several explosions shook the Vrbetice ammunition depot, 330 km southeast of Prague, on October 16, 2014.

The Czech Republic is expelling 18 Russian diplomats over suspicions that Russian intelligence services were involved in an ammunition explosion in 2014, Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek said on Saturday.

“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 told a briefing shown live on television.

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Several explosions shook the Vrbetice ammunition depot, 330 km southeast of Prague, on Oct. 16, 2014. The explosions killed two employees of a private company that was renting the depot from a state military organisation.

Hamacek said 18 Russian embassy staff identified as secret service personnel would be ordered to leave the NATO country within 48 hours.

The Interfax news agency on Saturday cited Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the upper house’s international affairs committee, as saying Prague’s claims that Russian intelligence officers were involved in the 2014 ammunition depot explosion are absurd.

Russia’s response to the expulsion of 18 diplomats should be proportionate, Dzhabarov was quoted as saying by Interfax.

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