Czech government accuse Russia of involvement in explosion, expel 18 embassy staff

The Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, says that the country’s security services have clear evidence that officers of the Russian foreign military intelligence agency the GRU were involved in the explosion of 50 tonnes of munitions at a depot in Vrbětice in Moravia in October 2014 in which two people died.

At an extraordinary news conference on Saturday evening the minister of the interior, Jan Hamáček, said that the Prague government was expelling 18 members of staff at the Russian Embassy in the city who had been identified as working for the country’s secret services. The spies have 48 hours to leave the Czech Republic.

The Czech police on Saturday evening released images of two men wanted for serious offences. The two are Anatoly Chepig and Alexander Mishkin, the same Russian GRU agents believed to have carried out a failed assassination attempt using the poison Novichok in Salisbury in the UK in 2018.

The news outlet Respekt reported that the Czech police's organised crime unit had worked on the case for several years in cooperation with the BIS counterintelligence service and the Brno Regional Public Prosecutor's Office. Investigators managed to make further progress last year on the basis of new information.

Mr. Babiš thanked the Czech agencies for their work and said that the Czech Republic was a sovereign state and had to react to such unprecedented findings. He also told reporters President Miloš Zeman had been informed of the situation and had expressed absolute support for the government’s actions.

Author: Ian Willoughby