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Russia expels two Czech diplomats in retaliation over hoax poison plot

Prague mayor Zdenek Hrib at the renaming of the Russian embassy square

Prague, Czech Republic – Russia has expelled two Czech diplomats stationed in the country, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Štíchová confirmed to the Czech News Agency (CTK) on Monday.

Russian authorities informed Czech Ambassador to Russia Vítězslav Pivoňka about the expulsion, Štíchová said, calling it “an expected and symmetrical” response to the expulsion, on June 5, of two Russian diplomats from Prague.

The two Czech diplomats, declared persona non grata in Russia, now have 48 hours to leave the country.

This tit-for-tat retaliation comes amid broader diplomatic tensions between Prague and Moscow sparked, among others, by a fake assassination plot that made headlines for weeks.

Earlier this month, the Czech counter-intelligence services found that an employee from the Russian embassy in Prague had spread false information about an alleged plan to poison three Czech politicians, including Prague mayor Zdenek Hrib and the mayor of Prague 6 Ondrej Kolar.

Following media reports of a Russian agent who had entered the country to carry out the assassination plot, the three Czech officials, who all had recently angered Moscow, were put into special police protection.

“The entire case came into being as a result of internal feuding among workers at the embassy… with one of them sending made-up information to our [counterintelligence service] about a planned attack on Czech politicians,” Prime Minister Andrej Babis said when announcing the expulsion of the Russian diplomats earlier this month.

“We are interested in having good relations with all countries, but we are a sovereign state and such actions are unacceptable on our territory”, he added.

Main photo credit: Petr David Josek/The Associated Press.

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