The speakers of the parliaments of the Visegrád Four joined the statement of EU foreign ministers, expressing solidarity with the steps taken by the Czechia over the possible involvement of Russian intelligence services in the explosion at the Vrbětice ammunition depot. At the same time, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that Czechia has the EU’s support and labeled the Russian reaction disproportionate.
According to the president of the Czech Senate, Miloš Vystrčil, the declaration of the heads of V4 parliaments confirmed the will to defend and fight against violations of the sovereignty of all democratic countries, especially those that are members of the European Union or NATO. The statement also expresses support for steps taken by the Czech Republic.
Due to the possible involvement of Russian agents in the 2014 explosion in ammunition depots in Vrbětice, the Czech Republic expelled 18 employees of the Russian embassy, who, according to the Czech authorities, worked for Russia’s secret services. In retaliation, Russia expelled 20 employees of the Czech embassy in Moscow.
“This attack could have taken place in any country and everywhere where discarded military material from the armament of the former Warsaw Pact is traded,” said Speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies Radek Vondráček.
According to him, Slovak politicians, in particular, approached the matter quickly, with the head of the Slovak Chamber of Deputies, Boris Kollár, expressing his support for the Czech Republic immediately. Poland also took an active approach, and an agreement was reached with the Hungarian side, too, added Vystrčil.
In addition to the case of Russian activities on the Czech territory, the speakers of the parliaments also addressed the coronavirus pandemic and the lack of Covid-19 vaccines. At the same time, they coordinated their positions on topics to be discussed at the summit of the EU’s speakers of the parliaments in May, such as the EU enlargement to the Balkans.
EU issues statement supporting Czech actions
Czechia was also supported in its dispute with Russia by the European Union, which unanimously condemned the Russian attack in Vrbětice and the subsequent expulsion of Czech diplomats.
“The EU takes extremely seriously the conclusions by the Czech authorities,” wrote the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in a statement issued on behalf of the member states, adding that the Czech Republic’s conclusions are based on an extensive investigation.
Full EU solidarity with & support to Czech Republic in light of the actions of GRU officers on its territory.
Russia must desist from activities that violate international law & threaten the EU’s security and interests.
My statement on behalf of the EU⬇️ https://t.co/9RTPbNXNMc
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) April 21, 2021
The EU strongly condemned illegal activities in the Czech territory and expressed concern about the violation of Czech sovereignty. Representatives of the EU have also agreed that the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the Czech Republic was necessary and that the perpetrators should be brought to justice.
The EU called Russia’s response to the expulsion of their diplomats from the Czech Republic disproportionate.
“Disruptive actions of Russian intelligence services against the interests and security of the EU and its member states will continue to be met with the staunchest resolve, including at the level of the European Union, as appropriate,” warned Borrell.
According to him, Russia must give up activities that threaten security and stability in Europe. EU foreign ministers have already expressed solidarity with the Czech Republic during a video conference on Monday.
Czechia calls on Russia to reconsider its retaliation
In the latest development, newly appointed Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek called on Russia to allow the return of expelled Czech diplomats to Moscow. Russia has time to do so until noon on Thursday, April 22.
However, the Kremlin reacted quickly to the minister’s words and rejected Kulhánek’s request.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded, saying that talking to Russia by issuing demands is pointless.
Title image: Czech Republic’s Prime Minister Andrej Babis, right, and newly appointed Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek address media at the Cernin’s Palace in Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Kulhanek was appointed during a Czech Russia diplomatic crisis over the alleged involvement in a fatal ammunition depot explosion in 2014. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)