Czech Prime Minister Babiš wants to remove Russian diplomats across the EU

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš asked that European states consider expelling at least one Russian diplomat in solidarity with the Czech Republic over the Vrbětice case. Today, he told reporters after arriving at an informal meeting of European Union presidents and prime ministers in Portugal. He debated the matter with the leaders of the member states on Friday evening.

Vrbětice case

About two weeks ago, a diplomatic rift broke out between the Czech Republic and Russia. Following the revelation of security forces, according to which agents of Russian military intelligence GRU are reasonably suspected of two explosions of ammunition in Vrbětice in 2014, the Czechia expelled 18 employees of the Russian embassy. Russia retaliated by expelling 20 Czech Embassy workers from Moscow. According to Czech diplomacy, other Russian diplomats were forced to leave the Czech Republic by the end of May. Russia reported that it was increasing the number of embassy employees “in strict parity.”

Babiš called on the European Council to condemn the Vrbětice attack at its next meeting. “When one Member State is targeted, we should always consider that everyone is attacked. I also asked that they consider the expulsion of at least one diplomat. We will see at the next summit how he will react,” the prime minister said.

EU reaction

Some countries, such as Slovakia and the Baltic states, have expressed solidarity with the Czech Republic and have also expelled Russian diplomats. Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček then stated on Czech Television that he expects similar steps from other countries as well, mentioning, for instance, Britain or Germany.

According to Babiš, there was a relatively long debate on the issue on Friday, during which, for example, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke. As this is an informal summit, no written conclusions have been reached. A broader debate on relations with Russia is expected at the European Council summit at the end of May.