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Russian suspects in Salisbury poisoning linked to explosion in Czech Republic

Czech police said on Saturday they were looking for two men “as part of the investigation” into a 2014 explosion at an ammunition depot in Vrbetice, releasing footage of Salisbury suspects Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Police added that the men are known to have a variety of passports, including Russian passports with the names of Petrov and Boshirov.

Moscow has denied any involvement in the Salisbury incident, and the men who identified themselves as Petrov and Boshirov claimed to have briefly visited the historic cathedral city as tourists. Putin said the two men identified as suspects were “not criminals”.

Police said the men were in the Czech Republic between October 11 and 16, 2014, and added that they also carried passports from Moldova and Tajikistan, under the names of Nicolai Popa and Ruslan Tabarov respectively.

Shortly before the announcement, the Czech Republic announced that it would expel 18 staff from the Russian Embassy in Prague due to the 2014 explosion, which caused enormous financial and environmental damage.

“As Minister of Foreign Affairs, I decided to expel all the employees of the Russian Embassy who were clearly identified by our security services as agents of the Russian intelligence services, SVR and GRU,” said at the time the acting foreign minister, Jan Hamacek.

Russian intelligence service

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said on Saturday “that there are valid suspicions that officers of the Russian intelligence service GRU, Unit 29155 have been linked to the explosion of an ammunition depot in Vrbetice in 2014.”

He added that the explosion “caused enormous material damage, a serious threat and disruption of people’s lives, but most importantly, it killed two of our citizens, two unexpected and innocent fathers.”

Babiš said he informed the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, of the investigation into the explosion. The Czech Republic will discuss the blast with NATO and European Union allies on Monday, according to a tweet sent early Sunday by Hamacek.

Hamacek was due to travel to Moscow in the coming days to discuss the possibility of the Czech Republic acquiring the Russian Covid-19 vaccine. The trip was canceled because it would be “necessary during the government meeting on Monday,” he said.

After the announcement, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russian state news agency TASS: “Prague is well aware of what will follow such tricks.”

In a tweet sent on Sunday, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy in Prague, Jennifer Bachus, said: “The United States stands by its staunch ally, the Czech Republic. Sol.”

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK “fully supports our Czech allies, who have exposed the efforts of Russian intelligence services in their attempts to carry out dangerous and malicious operations in Europe.”

He added that he was showing “a pattern of behavior for Moscow, following the Novichok attack in Salisbury”.

Relations between London and Moscow deteriorated in 2018 when the British government singled out the two Russians who it said were GRU agents. The bitter diplomatic struggle also saw a wave of direct expulsions between Russia and Western countries.
This week, the administration of US President Joe Biden has targeted Russia with sweeping sanctions and diplomatic expulsions, punishing Moscow for its interference in the 2020 US election, its SolarWinds cyberattack and continued occupation, and “serious rights violations. of man “in the Crimea.

CNN’s Tara John, Tomas Etzler, Anna Chernova, Sharon Braithwaite and Arnaud Siad contributed to this report.


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