Czech Republic expels 18 Russian embassy staff members

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis (right) and Czech Foreign Minister and Interior Minister Jan Hamacek wear face masks at a press conference on April 17, 2021 in Prague where it was announced that the Czech Republic will expel 18 Russian diplomats who were involved in the case of a blast in an munitions depot in Vrbetice in December 2014. (MICHAL CIZEK / AFP)

PRAGUE – The Czech Republic is expelling 18 Russian embassy staff from the Russian embassy in Prague, said Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis on Saturday.

The expelled, who were allegedly "identified as members of the Russian secret services", will have to leave the Czech Republic within 48 hours, said Czech Interior Minister and also acting Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek.

According to local media reports, the move comes in response to evidence obtained by the country's security services which suggests Russia's involvement in two ammunition depot explosions in 2014 in the Czech Republic which killed two people.

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In response to the Czech decision, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted as saying on Saturday by TASS news agency that "Prague is well aware what follows such 'tricks'."