Before the informal EU summit in Porto, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis appealed to the leaders of the European Union to expel at least one Russian diplomat from their countries in solidarity with Prague amid worsening of its relations with Moscow, Interfax reports, citing Czech radio.
On April 17, the Czech Republic announced the expulsion of 18 Russian diplomats, accusing Moscow of involvement in the 2014 explosion at an ammunition depot in Vrbetice. Two people were killed in the explosion. On April 22, the Czech Republic once again announced that it was reducing the staff of the Russian diplomatic mission. Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia followed suit.
The Russian Foreign Ministry responded by declaring 20 employees of the Czech Embassy in Moscow persona non grata.
At the same time, according to the newspaper Seznam Zprávy, the first deputy prime minister and the head of the Czech Interior Ministry Jan Hamáček planned a visit to Moscow to "hush up" the involvement of the Russian special services in the weapons depots explosions in exchange for free supplies of Russian Sputnik V vaccine.
According to the newspaper, Hamáček was also going to offer Prague's services to organize the upcoming meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden.
Hamáček planned to visit Moscow on April 19, but the trip was cancelled. He categorically denies the reports that he intended to use the situation with the explosions as a bargaining chip with the Russian authorities.