Russia expels 20 Czech diplomats in retaliation | Europe News

Russia is giving diplomats just over 24 hours to leave the country, in response to the Czech expulsion of 18 Russian diplomats.

Russia expelled 20 Czech diplomats on Sunday in retaliation for a series of diplomatic expulsions by Prague and gave affected Czech diplomats just over 24 hours to leave the country, the RIA news agency said citing the Ministry of Affairs. foreigners.

The Czech Republic expelled 18 Russian diplomats on Saturday after saying two suspected Russian spies accused of nerve agent poisoning in Britain in 2018 were behind a deadly explosion at a Czech ammunition depot four years over early.

In an earlier statement on Sunday, the Russian Foreign Ministry called the Czech announcement “absurd.”

“We will take retaliatory measures that will force the perpetrators of this provocation to understand their full responsibility to destroy the foundations of normal relations between our countries,” the ministry said.

A source told AFP news agency on Sunday that the Czech ambassador to Russia had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry. The Russian Foreign Ministry did not disclose any details.

Czech authorities said on Saturday they would do so expel 18 Russian diplomats identified by local intelligence services as secret agents of the Russian security services SVR and GRU suspected of being involved in an explosion in 2014.

A man carrying a NATO flag outside the Russian Embassy in Prague [David W Cerny/Reuters]

Czech police also said they were looking for two Russians in connection with the explosion that killed two people and who carried passports used by suspects in the attempt to poison a former Russian double agent. Sergei skripal in 2018.

Moscow called the announcement “not hostile” and alleged that it bore “traces” of Washington involvement.

“In their desire to please the United States in the context of the recent American sanctions against Russia, the Czech authorities in this regard have even surpassed their masters on the other side of the pond,” the Foreign Ministry said. .

Earlier this week, the United States sanctions announced and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats in retaliation for what Washington has called US election interference from the Kremlin, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activity.

Russia responded in kind, saying it would expel 10 American diplomats and take further retaliatory action in a tense confrontation with Washington.

‘Full support’

EU and NATO partners stood alongside Czech officials, with British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab saying on Sunday that Britain “fully supports our Czech allies”.

“I strongly condemn the subversive activities aimed at the security of… our closest neighbor and ally,” Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok said in a tweet.

Protesters wave a flag in red underwear outside the Russian Embassy in Prague [Michal Cizek/AFP]

“Killing the citizens of the Czech Republic on its territory by another country is almost an act of war,” protester Tomas Peszynski told AFP news agency at a rally in front of the Russian embassy in Prague Sunday afternoon.

About 100 demonstrators carried banners saying, “We are not Russia’s backyard.” They chanted “Shame” while waving the flags of the EU and NATO.

The night before, police arrested seven people who had coated the embassy wall with ketchup, symbolizing blood.

Czech politicians joined in the outcry, with government ministers saying Russian companies should not participate in the project to build a new multi-billion euro nuclear unit for security reasons.

“I can’t imagine (Russian energy giant) Rosatom coming to the safety assessment,” Industry Minister Karel Havlicek said.

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