The Czech authorities announced the expulsion from Prague of 18 employees of the Russian embassy, who were identified as agents of the GRU and SVR under diplomatic cover. This was announced on April 17 at a press conference by Czech Prime Minister Andrei Babis and Minister of Internal Affairs and Foreign Ministry Jan Hamáček. The employees of the Russian embassy were ordered to leave the country within 48 hours. “I am very sorry that Czech-Russian relations will suffer so badly, but we have to react. We are in the same situation as the UK during the Salisbury poisonings, ”Hamacek said.
Russian intelligence agencies have been implicated in the explosions at ammunition depots in the village of Vrbětice in the Zlín region in the southeastern Czech Republic, authorities said. The explosions took place on October 16 and December 3, 2014. The first explosion killed two people.
The Czech police put two people on the wanted list who visited Prague and the Zlín region in the first half of October 2014. They used Russian passports in the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, as well as a passport of Moldova in the name of Nikolai Popa and a passport of Tajikistan in the name of Ruslan Tabarov.
The Czech police suspect that Mishkin and Chepiga were involved in the explosions in Vrbetica, writes the Respekt edition. As the law enforcement authorities found out, the Russian agents arrived in Prague on a flight from Moscow on October 13, 2014 and sent an e-mail request to visit the warehouses in Vrbětice. However, the police have no direct evidence that Mishkin and Chepiga were physically in the warehouses, the newspaper notes. On October 16, the Russians left for Austria, from where they returned to Moscow.
Before the explosions, ammunition was to be delivered to the warehouse for one of the major Bulgarian arms dealers, who later planned to sell it to Ukraine. According to the police, the explosion occurred prematurely, it was planned to arrange it not in the Czech Republic itself, but during the transportation of ammunition to another country.
One of the targets of the GRU was the Bulgarian arms dealer Emelyan Gebrev, reminds Respekt. In 2015, he was poisoned twice with Novichok poison. The Insider and Bellingcat found out that a Russian intelligence officer under the name of Sergei Fedotov was involved in Gebrev’s poisoning. He also directed the operation to poison the Skripals in Salisbury.