Czechs want Russia to pay for damages from 2014 blast

International

FILE – In this Wednesday, April 21, 2021 photo, Russia’s ambassador to Prague, Aleksandr Zmeyevsky leaves the Foreign Ministry in Prague, Czech Republic. The Czech Foreign Ministry has summoned Russia’s ambassador to Prague to request a full compensation for damages caused by a huge ammunition depot explosion allegedly caused by Russian spies. The ministry says on Monday, June 28 deputy Foreign Minister Martin Smolek handed over to Aleksandr Zmeyevsky a diplomatic note “invoking the responsibility of the Russian Federation under international law for its involvement in the explosions of ammunition depot in Vrbetice in 2014.” (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, file)

PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech Foreign Ministry summoned Russia’s ambassador to Prague on Monday to request full compensation for damages from a huge ammunition depot explosion allegedly caused by Russian spies.

The ministry said deputy Foreign Minister Martin Smolek handed Ambassdor Aleksandr Zmeyevsky a diplomatic note “invoking the responsibility of the Russian Federation under international law for its involvement in the explosions of ammunition depot in Vrbetice in 2014.”

Czech leaders said on April 17 that they had evidence pointing to the participation of two agents from Russia’s military spy agency in the depot explosion that killed two people. Russia has denied any involvement.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova acerbically denounced the Czech compensation demand as an extortion attempt.

“Those who act like that, demanding payments using threats and insults without an investigation or trial, are called extortionists,” she said on her messaging app channel.

The same two Russians were charged by British authorities in absentia in 2018 with trying to kill former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in the English city of Salisbury.

The findings resulted in a serious diplomatic crisis between the Czech Republic and Russia, with dozens of diplomats ordered to leave their respective embassies.

At the same time, the Czech ministry requested that Russia revoke its decision from May that designated the Czech Republic, alongside the United States, as nations that engage in “unfriendly actions.” The move limits the hiring of staff for their embassy operations.

The Russian ambassador was told that it constitutes a violation of international law, specifically of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Treaty between the Czech Republic and Russian Federation on Friendly Relations and Cooperation.

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