Eighteen Russian diplomats identified as spies had 48 hours to leave the country, officials said.
The Czech Republic has announced that it is expelling 18 Russian diplomats identified as spies following a massive explosion at an ammunition depot in 2014.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Saturday that Czech intelligence agencies had provided evidence of the involvement of Russian military agents in the massive explosion that killed two people. He said the Czech Republic, as a sovereign state, must react to these findings.
“There are well-founded suspicions about the involvement of officers from the Russian intelligence service GRU, Unit 29155, in the explosion of an ammunition depot in the Vrbetice region,” Babis said.
Home Secretary Jan Hamacek, who is also Foreign Minister, said Russian Embassy staff were clearly identified as Russian military spies.
“Eighteen Russian embassy employees must leave our republic within 48 hours,” Hamacek told reporters.
In Russia, the Interfax news agency quoted Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chairman of the upper house’s international affairs committee, as saying that Prague’s claims that Russian intelligence agents were involved in the blast were absurd.
Moscow’s response to the expulsion of 18 diplomats should be proportionate, Dzhabarov said on Saturday.
Several explosions rocked the munitions depot in Vrbetice, 330 km southeast of the capital, Prague, on October 16, 2014.
The explosions killed employees of a private company that leased the depot to a state military organization.
Separately, on Saturday, Czech police said they were looking for two men with various passports, including Russian passports in the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.
These names were the pseudonyms used by two Russian military intelligence officers whom British prosecutors accused of the attempted murder on British soil of Russian spy Sergei Skripal. They and Moscow have both denied involvement.
Skripal and her daughter, Yulia, were poisoned with a nerve agent in the English town of Salisbury in March 2018. The attack sparked the biggest wave of diplomatic expulsions between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.