Prague, Czech Republic – Dozens of Russian diplomats and embassy staffers, along with their families, have left Prague over the week-end.
On Saturday, more than 50 Russian embassy personnel left the Czech Republic on a special government plane as part of the second wave of Russian diplomatic staff ordered to leave the country by May 31.
In April, the Czech government had already ordered 18 Russian diplomats suspected of working for the intelligence services to leave the country within 48 hours.
The move followed the revelation of Moscow’s direct involvement in the deadly explosion, in 2014, of an ammunition storage depot in Vrbetice, Moravia.
Another 63 diplomats and staffers working at the Russian embassy in Prague were given until the end of May to leave the Czech Republic.
The expulsions are part of the agreement on “parity representation” between Prague and Moscow, forcing both governments to reduce the workforce employed at their diplomatic offices to a total of 7 diplomats, 25 administrative workers and 19 local staffers.
For its part, Russia expelled 79 Czech diplomats and employees working at the Czech embassy, the Czech Center and the Czech House in Moscow. Earlier this month, the Kremlin officially labelled the Czech Republic – and the United States – as countries who committed “unfriendly actions towards Russia”, enabling Russian authorities to cap the total number of local staffers that can be employed by Czech entities operating in the country.
The Czech counterintelligence services’ findings on Russia’s role in the 2014 depot blast sparked an unprecedented diplomatic crisis between the two countries, once again drawing public attention to Russia’s subversive and covert espionage activities in EU and NATO member states.
A poll carried out at the end of April found that more than half of the Czech population perceived Russia as a security threat to their country.