PRAGUE (Sputnik) – Czech President Milos Zeman supports the cabinet in its decision to expel more than a dozen Russian diplomats, Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek told Czech Television on Monday night.
“We, together with Prime Minister Babis have informed the president of the republic of our decision to expel 18 Russian diplomats in connection with suspicions on the involvement of Russian secret service agents in explosions in Vrbetice. The President replied that the government has his support in this respect,” Hamacek said.
On Saturday, Hamacek announced the expulsion of 18 Russian diplomats on suspicion of being officers of Russia’s special services. They were obliged to leave the country within 48 hours. Prime Minister Andrej Babis explained that the move was prompted by “a reasonable suspicion” that Russian military intelligence officers had something to do with the October 2014 blasts at an ammunition depot in the town of Vrbetice that killed two Czech nationals.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Sunday said that the claims were groundless and absurd, particularly taking into account that the Czech government earlier blamed the blasts on the companies that owned the warehouses.
Also on Sunday, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced its decision to expel 20 Czech diplomats in response to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Prague and gave the Czech diplomatic staff time until the end of Monday to leave Russia.
According to Czech Television, the 20 embassy employees declared “persona non grata,” as well as their family members, arrived in Prague late on Monday.
On Monday, EU foreign ministers discussed the 2014 explosion at the ammunition depot in Vrbetice and reaffirmed their readiness to “show solidarity” with Prague, according to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.