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Czech Republic demands full reparation from Russia over 2014 explosions in Vrbetice

According to a statement from the Czech Foreign Affairs Ministry, Prague has invoked Russia’s responsibility under international law for its alleged involvement two fatal explosions at military ammunition depots in Vrbetice in 2014. 

On June 28, the Czech Republic’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Martin Smolek, transmitted a note verbale to Russian Ambassador Alexander Zmeevksy, requesting full reparation for the damage caused by the blasts, which have been linked to the Russian intelligence services.

In turn, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram that the Czech Republic is demanding compensation for “an uncommitted [crime].” “Usually those who act in this way — without a trial or investigation, demanding money through threats and insults — are called extortionists,” Zakharova said. 

According to the leading Czech newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes, the Czech authorities assessed the damage from the blasts at 650 million Czech crowns, the equivalent of about $30.5 million. This is less than the sum put forward in May by Czech Finance Minister Alena Schillerová, who said that Prague would demand the equivalent of nearly $47 million from Moscow.

In April 2021, the Czech authorities accused Russian intelligence operatives of carrying out two fatal explosions at military ammunition depots in Vrbetice in 2014. According to the Czech authorities, the explosions were part of an operation targeting weapons belonging to Bulgarian arms dealer Emilian Gebrev. Czech police subsequently announced a manhunt for the same two suspected Russian intelligence agents accused of trying to assassinate Sergey Skripal and his daughter in England in March 2018. The accusations were followed by tit-for-tat expulsions involving dozens of diplomats, and Russia adding the Czech Republic to its list of “unfriendly states.”

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