Apr 19, 2021 - World

Russia expels Czech diplomats after explosion linked to Skripal suspects

Police officers detain a pro-Russia demonstrator as protesters gather front of the Russian Embassy on April 18, 2021 in Prague

Czech police officers detain a pro-Russia demonstrator outside the Russian Embassy in Prague on Saturday. Photo: Michal Cizek/AFP via Getty Images

Officials in Moscow announced Sunday that 20 Czech diplomats had 72 hours to leave Russia, after the EU nation accused Russian operatives of being behind a deadly ammunition depot explosion in 2014.

Why it matters: The action, which came a day after the Czech government expelled 18 Russian diplomats over the blast, marks the latest escalation in what's become the worst tension between Russia and Western nations since the Cold War.

  • The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the Czech government in a statement of trying to "please" the U.S. by expelling its diplomats, "following recent American sanctions against Russia."
  • "The Czech government in this instance even exceeded its overseas masters," the statement added.

Driving the news: The Czech government said Saturday it suspected the Russian diplomats worked for a Kremlin intelligence unit it said was behind the explosion at the Vrbětice munitions depot.

  • The unit has been linked to a 2018 poisoning attack targeting Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England.
  • Czech police have connected Salisbury poisoning suspects Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov to the Vrbětice blast. Russia called the claims "absurd."

For the record: Last Friday, Russia announced it was expelling 10 American diplomats and expanding a no-entry list of current and former U.S. officials.

  • This was in retaliation for sanctions the Biden administration leveled at Moscow in response to the SolarWinds hack of federal agencies and interference in the 2020 election.
Go deeper