Moscow has declared 20 employees of the Czech Embassy in Russia persona non grata in response to Prague’s decision to expel 18 Russian diplomats because of their involvement in an explosion of an ammunition depot.
The day before, on April 18, Czech Ambassador Vitezslav Pivonka was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry and handed over a note. According to media reports, he stayed in the Russian Foreign Ministry building for about 20 minutes.
"The Russian Foreign Ministry strongly protested against the unfriendly act of the Czech authorities towards the personnel of the Russian diplomatic mission in Prague. Twenty employees of the Czech Embassy in Moscow have been declared "persona non grata," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Czech diplomats must leave Russia by the end of the day on April 19.
"The Czech side is also required to bring the number of diplomatic mission staff in Moscow to parity with the number of employees of the Russian Embassy in the Czech Republic," the Ministry added.
The Czech Republic has put Russians Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov on an international wanted list. These individuals are also suspected of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the UK. Czech authorities accused the Russian Military Intelligence Directorate employees of blowing up weapons depots in Vrbetica in 2014.
According to media reports, the explosion occurred earlier than planned by Russian intelligence.
The Czech Interior Minister said that similar explosions were carried out in Bulgaria.