Czech government orders out two Russian embassy staff

PRAGUE – The Czech government has declared two staff at the Russian Embassy in Prague as persona non grata and ordered them to leave, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Friday.

He said the decision came after what he called infighting among Russian embassy personnel that led to false allegations about a planned Russian assault on three Czech politicians.

“The entire case came to 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,” Babis said in a statement carried live on television.

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

Three politicians including the mayor of Prague were given police protection after reports that a Russian man who could be a threat to them arrived to Prague.

The Russian Embassy denounced the decision announced by Babis as a “fabricated provocation”.

“This unfriendly act, based since the beginning on unfounded allegations in the media, attests to Prague’s lack of interest in normalising Russian-Czech relations, which have deteriorated lately and this has not been our fault,” it said in a statement.

Russia’s RIA news agency cited Vladimir Dzhabarov, a senior Russian lawmaker, as saying Russia would respond in kind.

Czech President Milos Zeman has warm personal ties with Moscow but the European Union country’s overall relations with Russia have turned icy amidst several politically charged rows.

Prague City Hall angered Moscow earlier this year when it renamed a square outside the Russian Embassy after murdered Russian politician Boris Nemtsov, a prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Another flap occurred when authorities in a Prague district took down a statue of Soviet World War Two Marshal Ivan Konev that dated to the Communist era of former Czechoslovakia.