PRAGUE, April 20. /TASS/. Prague would welcome the expulsion of Russian intelligence officers by the allies in the EU and NATO, the Czech Republic’s First Deputy Prime Minister, Interior Minister and also Acting Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek said.
"We have received strong support from our allies [in the EU and NATO in connection with the expulsion of 18 staff members of the Russian Embassy in the Czech Republic]. We would welcome if they [also] expelled officers of Russian special services. We expect that our allies’ response would be stronger," Hamacek said.
The politician made this statement at Vaclav Havel Airport Prague where he arrived to meet the staff of the republic’s Embassy in Russia, declared personae non gratae, who arrived from Moscow by a special flight. Not all the expelled staff have arrived, and some of them are going home by their own transport, he said.
"We view Russia’s response [to the expulsion of 18 Russian Embassy’s staff] as very harsh and the government will decide what to do next," Hamacek said. One of the options could be bringing to parity the number of the Russian Embassy’s staff in the Czech Republic with the number of diplomats and technical personnel in the republic’s diplomatic mission in Russia. "We are considering the possibility of bringing these relations to the parity principle," he said.
According to the Czech Republic’s Foreign Ministry, since Tuesday the Russian Embassy’s staff in the republic would consist of 27 diplomats and 67 technical personnel, while the Czech Embassy in Russia would have 5 diplomats and 19 technical personnel.
Russian diplomats' expulsion
On April 17, the Czech authorities announced the expulsion of 18 employees of the Russian Embassy in Prague, who were allegedly "officers of Russian intelligence services." The move came over the ‘newly-revealed’ allegations about the 2014 blast at the ammunition depot in the village of Vrbetice in eastern Czech Republic. Russia declared 20 staff members of the Czech Embassy in Moscow personae non gratae. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Prague’s statement was aimed at "outdoing" in the media space the West’s report about the plot of a coup d’etat in Minsk, which had been uncovered by the Belarusian and Russian special services. The diplomat also noted that Hamacek’s statement that Moscow would not receive information on the incident’s investigation just confirmed that this was fake news.