Vladimir Putin expels 20 Czech diplomats as hunt for Russian Skripal agents announced

WORLD

The diplomats must now leave by the end of April 19, the Russian government announced today. The move from the Kremlin comes after the Czech Republic announced on Saturday it will expel 18 Russian diplomats from the country.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday vowed to “force the authors of this provocation to fully understand their responsibility for destroying the foundation of normal ties between our countries”.

The breakdown in relations was triggered after Prague claimed two Russian spies accused of a nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury in 2018, were behind an explosion at a Czech ammunition dump four years earlier, which killed two people.

Czech police said on Saturday they were searching for two men in connection with serious criminal activity carrying Russian passports in the names of Alexander Petrov, 41, and Ruslan Boshirov, 43.

The force said they had visited the country in 2014 and stayed from October 11 to 16.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said there was “well-grounded suspicion” about the involvement of officers of the Russian intelligence service GRU in the depot explosion.

The two Russian men were also accused of poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in 2018.

The UK Crown Prosecution Service authorised charges against them in connection with the attempted killing of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury on March 4, 2018.

Petrov and Boshirov denied being Russian operatives or being involved in the poisoning.

In an interview with Russia Today, they said they were only in the UK as tourists to visit Salisbury Cathedral.

The Kremlin has always denied any involvement in the Novichok poisoning.

Czech officials have informed NATO and European Union allies about the latest developments.

EU foreign ministers are set to discuss the matter at their meeting on Monday.

“Russia must desist from these actions, which violate the most basic international norms.”

Meanwhile, relations between the UK and Russia have become “even worse”, the Russian ambassador said.

Andrei Kelin revealed today he had not seen Mr Raab for more than a year.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said: “In the recent year our relations have become worse… even worse.”

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