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Czech Republic expels 18 Russian embassy staff

PRAGUE: The Czech Republic is expelling 18 Russian diplomats over suspicions that Russian intelligence services were involved in an ammunition explosion in 2014, Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Foreign Minister Jan Hamacek said on Saturday.

“There is well-grounded suspicion about the involvement of officers of the Russian intelligence service GRU, unit 29155, in the explosion of ammunitions depot in the Vrbetice area,” Babis told a briefing shown live on television.

Several explosions shook the Vrbetice ammunition depot, 330 km southeast of Prague, on Oct. 16, 2014. The explosions killed two employees of a private company that was renting the depot from a state military organization.

Hamacek said 18 Russian embassy staff identified as secret service personnel would be ordered to leave the NATO country within 48 hours.

Read More: Russia beefs up warship presence in Black Sea

Earlier today, two Russian warships transited the Bosphorus en route to the Black Sea on Saturday and 15 smaller vessels completed a transfer to the sea as Moscow had beefed up its naval presence at a time of tense relations with the West and Ukraine.

The reinforcement coincided with a huge build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine, something Moscow called a temporary defensive exercise, and follows an escalation in fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces.

 

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