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Czech president says he wants evidence of Russia’s involvement in Salisbury incident

In his words, expulsion of Russian diplomats can't be seen as an efficient instrument on the so-called Skripal case
Czech President Milos Zeman AP Photo/Petr David Josek
Czech President Milos Zeman
© AP Photo/Petr David Josek

PRAGUE, March 27. /TASS/. Czech President Milos Zeman said on Tuesday he wants trustworthy evidence to prove the United Kingdom’s allegations of Russia’s involvement in the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Great Britain.

"I want to know facts," he said in an interview with the Blesk TV channel. "Naturally, I would hail if Great Britain offers any evidence that Russians had sought to kill double agent Skripal."

He said a day before he had ordered this country’s counterintelligence services to check Russia’s accusation that the Novichok nerve agent could be developed or stored in the Czech Republic. "I don’t think it’s true, but it is always better to have counterintelligence data that these accusations are not true than to go on thinking that it might be true," he said, adding that he expected the answer from the counterintelligence services within a month.

He said he had not meddled with the government’s decision to expel three Russian diplomats. In his words, this step could not be seen as an efficient instrument on the so-called Skripal case.

"Europe has practiced expulsion of diplomats several times. I think this is unnecessary but have no objections against it. Let it be. They [diplomats] will return here in due time," Zeman said, adding that his country should have "proper or friendly relations with all major countries."

On March 4, former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain and exchanged for Russian intelligence officers, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench near the Maltings shopping center in Salisbury. Police said they had allegedly been exposed to a nerve agent. Both are in the hospital in a critical condition.

London immediately accused Russia of being involved, but failed to produce any evidence. UK Prime Minister Theresa May blamed Russia for "unlawful use of force" against her country. She identified the alleged substance used in the attack as the Novichok nerve agent, developed in the former Soviet Union. The UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats and announced other restrictive measures against Moscow.

Russia has flatly rejected these allegations pointing out that neither the Soviet Union nor Russia had any programs to develop that substance. In response, Moscow expelled the same number of British diplomats from Russia and ordering to close the British Consulate-General in St. Petersburg and shut down the British Council’s offices in Russia.

In a show of solidarity with the UK, a number of European countries, including France, Germany, Poland, the Baltic states, and Ukraine, as well as the United States and Canada announced on Monday their decision to expel about 100 Russian diplomats.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in turn this unfriendly step would not go unanswered.