President requests head of BIS to get to bottom of novichok claim

President Miloš Zeman has tasked the head of BIS, Michal Koudelka, with investigating whether the deadly nerve gas novichok was ever produced or stored in the Czech Republic.

He gave the counter-intelligence head the job the same day the prime minister, Andrej Babiš, announced three Russian diplomats would be expelled from the country in connection with the recent poison attack on a former spy and his daughter in the UK.

Other European countries as well as the US took similar steps in solidarity.

The government already sharply rejected the suggestion that the nerve agent could have come from this country. The president's task for the head of counter-intelligence thus appeared to run counter to both the government's response as well as the prime minister's words on Monday, when he said that Russia had significantly crossed the line by suggesting the trail led here.

President Miloš Zeman's support for Russia and the Putin regime is well-documented; the head of state has advocated sanctions against Russia being dropped, in the face of EU and US support, and in the past called the annexation of Crime a "fait accompli".

The head of the president's foreign affairs office, meanwhile, tweeted Monday the expulsion was "merely symbolic" and suggested that reciprocal action by Russia would hurt the Czech Republic.

Author: Jan Velinger