On Monday, the Czech Republic announced it would expel three Russian diplomats, giving them and their families until April 1st to comply and leave the country. The decision was made following the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the U.K. on March 4. While Moscow has denied the allegations it was responsible for the attack, over two dozen of Western countries have joined the British government’s stance and decided to take retaliatory measures.
Overall, around 150 Russian diplomats are expected to be expelled from the U.K., the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Ukraine and tens of other European nations. Poland (4) and Hungary (1) have also decided to take such action.
Moreover, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš strongly refuted Russia’s claim that the Novichok nerve gas used in the attack may have come from the Czech Republic. President Miloš Zeman, known for his pro-Russian views, asked the Czech intelligence services (BIS) to investigate whether this nerve agent, developed in the former USSR in the 1970’s and 1980’s, could have originated from the country. This move sparked the anger of many politicians, who accused the head of state of undermining the government’s position and putting national security at risk. Other accused countries, including Slovakia and Sweden, have similarly refuted Moscow’s allegations.
An American in Prague
The Czech government’s decision was praised by U.S. House of Representatives speaker Paul Ryan, who was on a two-day visit in the Czech capital this week. He is the highest U.S. official to come to Prague since President Obama’s visit in 2009.
During that time, he met with several Czech politicians, including Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, gave an address to the Czech Chamber of Deputies and a speech at Charles University. His visit coincides with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of U.S.-Czech bilateral relations and comes a few months after the arrival of new U.S. Ambassador Stephen King (no, not this one).
And Slovaks in the streets
In Slovakia, Peter Pellegrini’s new government won the support of the Slovak parliament, with 81 MP’s voting in favour, out of 144 representatives present. Meanwhile, protesters continued to march in Bratislava and Košice to voice their discontent with the new cabinet and call for early elections.
Peter Pellegrini, 42, was appointed Prime minister following the resignation of Robert Fico in the wake of journalist Ján Kuciak’s murder. Vice-president of Smer-SD since 2014, Peter Pellegrini held several government positions in the past, including state secretary for Finance, minister for Education, Science, Research and Sports and speaker of the National Council. He became deputy-Prime minister for investments and informatisation in March 2016. Many fear, however, that the cabinet reshuffle is a purely decorative move and that Robert Fico will, in effect, keep running the country and pulling the strings.