Kremlin Says Czech Expulsion of its Diplomats ‘Provocative and Unfriendly’
Story Code : 928170
Authorities in the Czech Republic announced on Saturday that the diplomats would be expelled after the local intelligence identified them as secret agents of the Russian security services who had been suspected of involvement in a 2014 explosion at a Czech ammunition depot that killed two people.
“We categorically do not agree with these conclusions. We consider them provocative and unfriendly,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a news briefing on Monday.
Moscow retaliation was swift as on Sunday, 20 employees of the Czech embassy in Moscow were designated “persona non grata” and were told to leave Russia before the end of Monday.
It is the biggest dispute between the two countries since the end of decades of Soviet domination of Eastern Europe in 1989.
In the meantime, Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, has accused Washington of playing a part in the dispute.
She says the “hastily fabricated” accusations are aimed at distracting attentions from “accumulated problems in EU countries and in the West in general.”
“Without a doubt, it is the United States that is behind this.”
Both the Czech and the US embassies in Moscow, she has said, would no longer be allowed to employ Russian citizens.
Russian retaliation stronger than expected: Prague
Reacting to Russia’s eviction of the 20 Czech embassy employees, Prague said on Monday that the move was stronger than expected and the government would consider further steps.
“The reaction (by Russia) is stronger than we had expected, it is more diplomats than the number of intelligence officers we expelled,” Acting Czech Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek told a televised news conference.
“I will meet the prime minister and discuss whether and when it will be needed to take some further steps from the Czech side.”
Hamacek said he had asked fellow European Union foreign ministers for “an expression of solidarity” at a video-conference earlier in the day.
“I expect that also on the basis of this…, we will learn about more expressions of support and it will be up to member states if they add some concrete decisions.”
Russia says to continue to respond in kind to any sanctions
In another development on Monday, Peskov said Russia would continue to respond in kind if the US administration imposed further sanctions on Moscow.
“The principle of reciprocity is an absolute constant. These retaliatory decisions will keep being taken if similar practice continues.”
On April 15, Washington announced economic sanctions against Russia and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats in retaliation for what it alleged as election interference, a massive cyber-attack, and other ‘hostile activity.’
Under the new sanctions, the US Treasury Department will ban American financial institutions from purchasing bonds from the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, the National Wealth Fund of the Russian Federation, or the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation after June 14 and from lending funds to those institutions.
The measures are part of an executive order signed by US President Joe Biden that also leaves open the possibility for the White House to expand the sanctions on Russian sovereign debt.
The Kremlin said on the same day that there would be an “inevitable” response to the fresh round of sanctions. Moscow, as a result, summoned the American ambassador in protest.