Czech expels more Russian diplomats as spat escalates

Prague, Apr 22 (EFE).- Czech Republic on Thursday expelled a number of Russian diplomats from the country amid an escalating dispute between the two countries.

The large-scale expulsion is the latest reaction to accusations that Russian agents participated in “terrorist” actions on Czech soil.

“We put a ceiling on the number of Russian diplomats in the Czech Republic, which is equal to the number of our diplomats in Moscow,” Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek announced in a televised statement in which he did not specify the number of Russian officials affected.

The measure is the latest in an escalating row and comes after an ultimatum by Prague had expired to revoke an order expelling 20 Czech embassy workers from the Russian capital that had been issued in retaliation to an earlier expulsion of Russian diplomats.

Before the dispute, the Czech Republic had 60 representatives in Russia. The latest expulsion leaves about 40 remaining, while the Russians had 135 accredited members in the Central European country, of which 117 remain.

On Saturday, the Czech government blamed Russian intelligence services for the explosion of a powder keg in 2014 that left two dead and announced the expulsion of 18 members of the Russian embassy in Prague.

According to Czech counterintelligence, those expelled worked for the Russian military (GRU) and civilian (SVR) intelligence services.

“We have managed to break two complete bases of the Russian GRU and SVR services,” Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said on Thursday.

The Czech Senate issued a statement condemning Russia the day before, calling the act of sabotage at the ammunition depot an “act of state terrorism.”

“The Czech Republic is a sovereign country and the evidence of a terrorist act available to us forces us to react,” said Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

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