A day after the government of the Czech Republic blamed operatives from Russia’s military intelligence agency for a series of mysterious explosions at an ammunition depot in 2014 and expelled 18 Russian diplomats, the Russian government announced on Sunday that 20 Czech diplomats would be ejected in response.
The expulsions signal further escalation of tensions between the Kremlin and western governments, reaching an intensity not seen since the Cold War. The spat between the Czech Republic and Russia comes just days after the United States imposed heavy sanctions on Russian government officials and businesses in response to a large-scale hacking of American government computer systems.
In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry called the Czech accusations “absurd” and accused the government of being an American puppet.
“In an effort to please the U.S.A. following recent American sanctions against Russia, the Czech government in this instance even exceeded its overseas masters,” the Russian Foreign Ministry statement said.
an attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016 and the poisoning of Sergei V. Skripal, a former Russian spy, in the United Kingdom two years later.
The British government charged in absentia two operatives from Unit 29155 with carrying out the poisoning.
On Saturday, the Czech authorities said that those two operatives, known by their aliases, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, had been in the Czech Republic in the days leading up to, and including, the first explosion in October 2014. In a statement, the organized-crime unit of the Czech national police said that the two men were wanted in connection with an unspecified “serious crime.”