Prague and Moscow caught up in spat over sanctity of diplomatic premises

Czech House in Moscow

Following a mass expulsion of each other’s diplomats in 2021, Prague and Moscow are now engaged in a spat over diplomatic ground. The Czech Foreign Ministry has sent Russia a protest note over the dismantling of a fence around the Czech House in Moscow, while the mayor of Prague 7 is suggesting tearing down the wall around the Russian Embassy premises in Stromovka Park.

The unexpected dismantling of a large part of the fence protecting the Czech House in Moscow this week elicited a sharp response from the Czech government. Prime Minister Petr Fiala said the move would not go unanswered, while Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský spoke of a violation of sovereign territory, since the Czech House is part of the country’s embassy in Russia.

Jan Lipavský | Photo: Office of Czech Government

"Today we forwarded a diplomatic note to the Russian Foreign Ministry urging the Russian side to rectify the situation without delay, so that our premises in Moscow are made secure.”

For its part, Moscow has voiced surprise over what it calls Prague’s “overblown reaction“ saying the dismantling of the fence was the result of a long-standing dispute and had nothing to do with the present political situation or the freeze in mutual relations.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claims the Czech House does not have diplomatic status and the fence around it had been erected without a construction permit from the local authorities. "The Russian side is puzzled by the disproportionate reaction and the escalation of emotions on the part of Czech top officials over this issue, which is presented in Prague as almost being the main problem in our relations," the ministry's website says.

Russian Embassy in Prague | Photo:  Radio Prague International

Meanwhile, in Prague some are calling for a tit-for-tat move. The mayor of Prague 7, Jan Čižinský, has proposed the removal of a wall surrounding Russian Embassy ground in Stromovka Park. The ground was taken by Russian troops during the 1968 invasion and although its ownership was later sanctioned by the communist authorities, the wall erected around it goes beyond the limits of what is now Russian diplomatic ground. A second wall inside the premises testifies to this and no one knows how the property within is now being used by the embassy. Mayor Čižinský says he is ready to act.

Jan Čižinský | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

“This wall is illegal, no one is even claiming the opposite. We are just waiting for the Foreign Ministry to give us the word and we will tear it down. Quite seriously. We have the capacity to do it.

With emotions running high, the wall around the embassy premises is now protected by police 24 hours a day. And the Czech foreign minister has made it clear that Prague is not about to follow Moscow’s example. “The property, including the fence, is subject to diplomatic protection. We really cannot interfere with it without Russia's consent” he said.