Czechs expel 18 Russians over huge depot explosion in 2014

By Canadian Press	
	 		Czechs expel 18 Russians over huge depot explosion in 2014

According to Czech police, the two men were travelling under passports bearing the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the same names used by the suspects in the Skripal poisoning.

In expelling the Russian diplomats today, Babiš stated that there was reasonable suspicion of the involvement members of the Russian intelligence service GRU in the 2014 explosions.

Russian Federation denied involvement in the poisoning but some 300 diplomats were sent home in subsequent tit-for-tat expulsions.

The pair then switched to one Moldovan passport in the name of Nicolai Popa, born July 18, 1979 and a Tajikistan passport in the name of Ruslan Tabarov, born October 23, 1975. Following the attack in England, investigative journalists identified Petrov and Boshirov as aliases for Russian military intelligence officers named Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said the country had to react to revelations tying the blast to Russia's military intelligence service, the GRU.

They said the two also visited the capital of Prague and another northeastern Czech region.

"Eighteen employees of the Russian embassy must leave our republic within 48 hours", Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek told reporters.

"We have good reason to suspect the involvement of GRU officers from unit 29155 in the explosion at the ammunition warehouse in Vrbetice" in the east of the country, Babis said.

The Czech Republic announced Saturday that it was expelling 18 Russian diplomats who it has identified as spies in a case related to a huge ammunition depot explosion in 2014.

He added he had received the information on Friday, without explaining why it had taken so long. Now Czech authorities believe the same men were involved in the bombing of a warehouse in Vrbetice, in the east of the country. "But above all, two of our compatriots were killed there", Babis said.

At the same time, Czech police have announced the search for two men travelling in the area on Russian passports at the time of the explosions.

Russian politician Vladimir Dzhabarov said the Czech Republic's claims were absurd and that the Russian reaction to the expulsion of its diplomats should be proportionate, the Interfax news agency reported.

Two Russian men suspected of carrying out the Salisbury poisoning of Sergei Skripal in 2018 are being linked to an explosion at an arms depot in the Czech Republic four years earlier. The tensions subsequently resulted in reciprocal expulsions of diplomats.

He said he had summoned Russian ambassador Alexander Zmeyevsky to convey the decision.

The Czech announcement came two days after the USA said it was expelling 10 Russian diplomats and imposing sanctions against several dozen people and companies, holding the Kremlin accountable for interference in last year's presidential election and the hacking of federal agencies.



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