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March 26, 2018 5:44 pm | FILED UNDER: europe

President Zeman: Orders Hunt For Novichok After Moscow’s Accusations

By ČTK Czech President Milos Zeman

Prague, March 26 (CTK) – President Milos Zeman today ordered the BIS counter-intelligence to check whether the Novichok nerve agent, which was used to attack a Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Britain, was developed or stored in Czech territory, Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said in a written statement.

 

The BIs should check industrial plants and research facilities, Ovcacek said.

 

Zeman had talks with BIS head Michal Koudelka and Defence Minister Karla Slechtova in the Lany presidential chateau this afternoon. Simultaneously, Prime Minister Andrej Babis announced the expelling of three Russian diplomats from the country. Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky said the three diplomats must leave by the end of the month.

 

Ovcacek said Zeman was in contact with Babis, some cabinet members and representatives of the security forces.

 

Presidential Office foreign affairs head Rudolf Jindrak said on Twitter the expulsion of employees of the Russian embassy is merely a symbolic step and an expression of solidarity with the Western allies. He said he expects it to have a very limited impact.

 

Jindrak said Some Russian official will use the expulsions as yet another “piece of evidence” of the injustice that Russia has been facing. Russia will expel Czech diplomats in retaliation, which will be disadvantageous for the Czech Republic because it has a lower number of diplomats in Moscow than Russia has in Prague, he indicated.

 

Jindrak said it is necessary to wait for a thorough investigation of the case.

 

He said Zeman has never challenged the expulsion. On the contrary, the case shows the good coordination between the president and the government, Jindrak added.

 

Britain said Russia is behind the Novichok attack and it expelled Russian diplomats. Russia rejected it and took a retaliatory step. Last Thursday, the political leaders of EU member states backed Britain. European Council President Donald Tusk said today 14 EU countries decided to expel Russian diplomats over the attack against Skripal and his daughter, who had been poisoned by the Novichok nerve agent.

 

Last week, Russia claimed that Novichok which was used in the attack might have come from the Czech Republic. Babis dismissed the allegation, calling it “a blatant lie.”

 

The USA is expelling 60 Russian diplomats.

 

The expulsion of three Russian diplomats from Prague was supported by most political parties. Only the Communists (KSCM) said the country lacked sufficient evidence to justify the step.

 

Zeman has not commented on the latest conflict between the EU and Russia so far. He is known as a keen supporter of closer cooperation with Moscow and he is opposed to international sanctions imposed on Russia in reaction to the annexation of Crimea.

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