Prague, April 4 (CTK) – Russia expelled two military officers and a junior diplomat from the Czech embassy in Moscow in retaliation for the expulsion of three Russian diplomats from Prague, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes today.
Prague expelled the Russian diplomats within a coordinated reaction of Western allies to the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal in Britain, for which they hold Moscow responsible. Russian diplomats were expelled from the USA, Canada, Australia and many EU countries.
As no senior diplomat was ordered to leave and the posts of the expelled Czech embassy employees were not cancelled so new diplomats may occupy the vacant posts relatively soon, the Russian reaction seems rather soft.
This is because ten Russian diplomats will have to ask Prague to extend their accreditation soon, the paper writes.
The Czech authorities cancelled the posts of the three expelled Russian diplomats.
Former Czech ambassador to Moscow and Washington, Petr Kolar, said the Russian reaction is not standard. “It is usual that if we cancel the Russian posts in Prague, they reciprocally cancel posts at the Czech embassy in Moscow,” he told the paper.
The expelled Czech diplomats are to leave Russia together with their families by Thursday, April 5. The three expelled Russian diplomats had to leave the Czech Republic by April 1.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis said previously covert agents from the Russian embassy would be expelled. The weekly Respekt wrote in its latest issue that two of them worked for the foreign civilian intelligence SVR and one for the foreign military intelligence GRU. According to Respekt, the Czech counter-intelligence BIS picked a group of 11 Russian spies who worked in the country under diplomatic cover, and the three were chosen from this group.
As Vladimir Remek left the post of ambassador at the end of January, the Czech embassy in Moscow has been temporarily headed by charge d’affaires Petr Krouzek since then. Future ambassador Vitezslav Pivonka is waiting for his visa, LN writes.
Kolar said Pivonka eventually might not occupy the post due to the diplomatic conflict that developed between the Western allies and Russia over the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal in Britain.
According to LN sources from the Czech Foreign Ministry, Pivonka is to start working as ambassador in Moscow in mid-April.