Russia expels Czech diplomats over explosion row
April 19, 2021 - Russia has expelled 20 Czech diplomats in a retaliatory move, a day after Prague sent home 18 Russian embassy staff suspected of involvement in an explosion at an arms depot in 2014 which killed two people.
Czech authorities say the Russian diplomats are believed to be intelligence operatives, accusations that Moscow has classed as unfounded and absurd, the BBC said.
The explosion, which tore apart an ammunitions storage depot in a forest at Vrbetice in the Czech Republic in October 2014, was originally assumed to have been an accident.
But a painstaking investigation by Czech authorities has pointed the finger at Russia’s GRU spy agency. Czech police have identified two men in connection with the blast – Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. The names match the aliases of two Russian intelligence officers who are wanted in the UK in connection with the 2018 Salisbury poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.
The two men and Moscow both deny any involvement in the Skripal poisoning, claiming they were visiting the area for tourism.