Prague pressures Kremlin to allow return of 70 Czech diplomats to Russia

Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek protested against the expulsion of 20 Czech embassy employees from Moscow and demanded that all of them be returned to the diplomatic mission.

Prague awaits Moscow's decision until 12:00 (13:00 GMT) Thursday, April 22, Czech Foreign Minister told reporters.

"All expelled employees of the Czech Embassy must be allowed to come back to Moscow. A decision is expected by 12:00 On Thursday. If it is not taken, we will proceed with the option of bringing the number of staff of both embassies to parity," TASS quoted Kulhanek as saying.

For Russia, this means that 75% of Russian embassy staff will be expelled from Prague. According to the Czech Foreign Ministry, Russia’s staff consists of 27 diplomats and 67 employees of technical staff, while the Czech diplomatic mission in Moscow employs only 5 diplomats and 19 technical staff.

Thus, 70 diplomatic workers can be expelled from the Russian Embassy in the Czech Republic.

"The expulsion of 20 of our diplomats from Russia has effectively paralyzed the work of the embassy in Moscow," Kulhanek said.

On April 17, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and the country's Interior Minister, Jan Hamáček, said that the Czech government had evidence of Russian intelligence involvement in the explosion at an ammunition depot in Vrbetice.

The Czech police have put two Russian citizens, including Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov on an international wanted list. Petrov and Boshirov are also suspected of poisoning Sergey and Yulia Skripal in the UK. According to the police and the National Centre for Combating Organized Crime, the men were in the Czech Republic between October 11 and October 16, 2014.

On April 17, Prague announced that it was expelling 18 Russian diplomats and intended to "bring to justice" the perpetrators of the incident, which resulted in human casualties. In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry declared 20 employees of the Czech Embassy persona non grata and demanded that they leave Moscow within 24 hours.

Earlier, the Czech government excluded the Russian Nuclear Agency, Rosatom, from the tender for the construction of a new power unit of the Dukovany nuclear power plant for $6 billion.

  Czech Republic, Russia