Czech Republic expels two Russian Embassy employees over poison plot hoax

The Czech Republic has declared two employees of the Russian Embassy persona non grata, announced Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš at a press conference.

According to him, this decision was made after the media reported that the Russian diplomat brought poison from Russia to Prague. Babiš called the information a "false incident."

"One [Russian] embassy employee sent deliberately made-up information about a planned attack on Czech politicians to BIS [Security Information Service]," he said.

The Czech Prime Minister did not name the embassy staff or say which department they worked for.

Babis said, citing the intelligence information, that the hoax was the result of a conflict between employees at the Russian embassy.

"Besides burdening our security forces, [the employee] caused further complications in Czech-Russian relations and harmed the good reputation of the Russian Federation in the Czech Republic," said the Czech Prime Minister.

Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said Prague had no other option but to expel the diplomats "even though we're aware of the expected reciprocal steps".

The Czech news outlet Respekt reported that a Russian special agent arrived in Prague after a monument to Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev was demolished.

The agent had a Russian diplomatic passport. A car of the Russian diplomatic corps was waiting for him and took him to the Russian embassy. Sources of Respect claim that the person traveled with a briefcase in which he supposedly had deadly poison ricin. Czech Security services knew about his arrival and assessed the men as an immediate risk for a pair of Czech politicians whose actions in recent months had provoked the wrath of Moscow.

On April 4, a monument to Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev was dismantled in Prague. Prague mayor, Zdeněk Hřib, the mayor of Prague’s Řeporyje district Pavel Novotný and the mayor of Prague 6 district Ondřej Kolář, who initiated the demolition of the monument, were taken under police protection because of threats from Russia.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has already demanded to hold the administration of Prague accountable for these actions, and the Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case into "the public desecration of symbols of Military Glory of Russia". Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that the initiators of the demolition should be "aware of the risks of further aggravation of this situation."

Sergey Shoygu asked the Czech authorities to hand over the monument to Russia, but the request was refused. According to the authorities, the monument is planned to be installed in the Museum of the 20th century in the future. The mayor's office of Prague promised to allocate funds for it.

The monument to Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev was built on May 9, 1980 in Prague's Interbrigade Square in gratitude for the fact that the marshal ordered not to use heavy artillery when liberating Prague from the Nazis in May 1945 and thus preserved the historic buildings.

Over the years, the monument has been vandalized many times. The last such case occurred in August 2019. Unknown persons poured red paint on the monument and wrote on the memorial plate: "No to bloody marshal! We won’t not forget."

  Czech Republic, Russia, Prague