Czechs expel Russian diplomats and identify pair wanted over Novichok attack

Czechs expel Russian diplomats and identify pair wanted over Novichok attack

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.

Czech police also said they were seeking two Russians in connection with the blast that killed two people, and who carried passports used by suspects in the attempted poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in 2018.

Czech foreign minister Jan Hamacek said 18 Russian embassy staff identified as secret service personnel would be ordered to leave the country within 48 hours.

A woman waves a European Union flag in front of the Russian Embassy in Prague, Czech Republic, on April 18, 2021.

On October 16, 2014, an explosion shook a depot in Vrbetice, 205 miles southeast of Prague, killing two employees of a private company that was renting the site from a state military organisation.

The United States imposed sanctions against Russian Federation this week for interfering in last year's USA election, cyber hacking, bullying Ukraine and other alleged malign actions, prompting Moscow to retaliate.

Babis said President Milos Zeman, who is known for his pro-Russian views, has been informed about the development and has "expressed absolute support for us".

Separately, Czech police said on Saturday they were searching for two men carrying various passports, including Russian ones in the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

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He said the investigation into the case has not yet been completed but thanked the country's security forces for their "professional job".

Col. Mgr. Jaroslav Ibehej of the NCOZ issued the notice for the two men who were first using Russian passports with the names Alexander Petrov, born on July 13, 1979 and Ruslan Boshirov, born April 12, 1978.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said her country would answer the Czech move.

Hamacek said the the case will significantly harm Czech-Russian relations.

Russia's Interfax news agency cited Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the Russian upper house's global affairs committee, on Saturday as saying Prague's assertions were absurd and Russia's response should be proportionate.

These are the same names used by two Russian intelligence officers the United Kingdom says carried out the poisoning in Salisbury, Wiltshire in 2018.

"We are as determined and committed as ever to bring those responsible for the attack in Salisbury to justice, and commend the actions of the Czech authorities to do the same".

Police said both men were believed to have been in the Czech Republic from October 11 until October 16, 2014, the day of the explosion.

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