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Czech Republic prepares ‘legal steps’ to demand compensation for 2014 explosions

The blasts at arm depots in the village of Vrbetice were not an act of state terrorism, the country's prime minister said
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis

PRAGUE, April 19. /TASS/. The Czech Republic prepares "legal steps" with demands of compensation of damages, caused by explosions at arms depots in Vrbetice, that Russian intelligence was allegedly involved in, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told journalists Monday.

"We prepare legal steps to demand the compensation of damages," Babis said.

The 2014 explosions at arms depots in the Czech Republic’s Vrbetice were not an act of state terrorism, Babis said. "This was not an act of state terrorism. Russia did not attack the Czech Republic. It was an attack on a shipment, intended for a Bulgarian [arms] dealer who, probably, intended to resell it later," he said.

The report of the Czech Security Information Service (counterintelligence service) regarding the 2014 explosions at arms depots in Vrbetice, that, as Prague claims, Russian intelligence was involved in, will not be published out of national security concerns, Andrej Babis told journalists. "The [counterintelligence] report about the explosions in Vrbetice cannot be published," Babish said. One day earlier, the prime minister stated that the report will be declassified and made public.

He also underscored that the "presence of GRU [Russian military intelligence] agents" in the republic "is unacceptable." According to the prime minister, GRU agents, disguised as arms dealers, were able to obtain access to arms deports and planted explosives there. The explosions were supposed to go off outside the Czech Republic, Babis added.

On Monday, Czech Prosecutor General Pavel Zeman claimed that the explosions in Vrbetice involved the same people as the UK’s Salisbury incident. According to the prosecutor general, these people stayed in the Czech Republic under the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

"The [Czech] law enforcement agencies continue the investigation of the Vrbetice incident. Therefore, we can only provide limited information [about the incident to journalists]," the prosecutor general said.

On April 17, Czech Prime Minister Babis and First Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamacek, who also temporarily serves as the Foreign Minister, announced the expulsion of 18 Russian Embassy employees, who, according to the Czechs, are "officers of Russia’s SVR and GRU intelligence services." This step was made over allegedly newly discovered circumstances of the arms depots explosions in Vrbetice in 2014.

The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed its deceive protest over the step, taken "under baseless and contrived pretext," and declared 20 Czech Embassy employees personae non gratae.