PRAGUE, May 15. /TASS/. By including the Czech Republic into the list of unfriendly states, Russia made "another step towards the escalation of relations" with Prague, the European Union and its allies, the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.
"We consider this course of action by the Russian Federation to be another step towards the escalation of relations not only with the Czech Republic, but also with the EU and its allies," the Czech Foreign Ministry said.
According to the statement, Russia’s move is "completely contrary to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations." According to Prague, the decision contradicts Moscow's commitment to allow diplomatic missions to function properly on the Russian territory, in line with the principle of non-discrimination between states.
"We regret that Russia is choosing the path of confrontation to its own detriment, as this measure will also have an indirect effect on the possible development of contacts between ordinary citizens, on tourism, and on the development of trade relations," the statement says.
However, the document says that Russia’s move should not affect the work of the Russian embassy in Prague. The number of its staffers will correspond to the number of diplomats, as well as of administrative and technical personnel of the Czech embassy in Moscow.
Czech deputy premier praises his country’s policy
Along with the foreign ministry’s announcement, the Czech Republic’s first deputy premier and Interior Minister Jan Hamacek also made a statement on the issue. In his opinion, Russia’s decision to include the Czech Republic into the list of unfriendly countries proves that Prague reacted properly in connection with the Vrbetice incident.
"This [Russia’s decision] proves that the Czech Republic’s response to the Vrbetice incident was correct, and its reaction affected Russia so deeply, that [Moscow] decided to include us into the list of unfriendly nations, along with the United States," he said.
"I’m proud of taking part in preparing and implementing the Czech Republic’s response," Hamacek was quoted as saying by the Mlada Fronta Dnes newspaper.
Zeman's statement due on Sunday
Czech President Milos Zeman will speak on Russian-Czech relations on Sunday, his spokesperson Jiri Ovcacek told reporters.
"The republic’s president, Milos Zeman, will speak about this situation in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday by Radio Frekvence 1," he said.
Czech-Russian diplomatic spat
On April 17, Prague announced Moscow had been allegedly involved in ammunition depot blasts in the eastern Czech village of Vrbetice in 2014 and expelled 18 employees of the Russian Embassy in Prague. The Russian Foreign Ministry protested against the move and declared 20 employees of the Czech Embassy in Moscow personae non grata.
On Friday, Russia’s official portal of legal information published the list of unfriendly countries, approved by the Russian government. So far, there are only two entries on the list - the United States and the Czech Republic. According to the document, the Czech Republic’s embassy and consulates in Russia are allowed to employ up to 19 Russian staffers, while the US diplomatic missions are completely prohibited from doing so.