The Czech Republic is interested in having normal relations with Russia, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told CTK on Wednesday.
“We are interested in normal relations with Russia,” he stressed. He expressed hope that the issues arising in the relations between both states would be regulated on the outcomes of mutual talks. He added that the Czech Republic approaches the organization of such talks “very responsibly.”
Babis expressed hope that the Russian-Czech talks stipulated under the 1993 Friendship and Cooperation Treaty would lead to the meeting between Russian and Czech leaders. “The fact that the Czech-Russian relations are not ideal is not surprising neither to us nor to Russians. This is why we have agreed to begin Czech-Russian consultations,” the PM noted.
During the talks, the parties will assess the state of Russian-Czech relations and regulate the existing disputes. The Czech government is interested in developing cooperation between both states, Babis added.
The Czech PM’s words came as a follow-up to the earlier statement made by Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that so far, no high-or top-level talks are planned between Russia and the Czech Republic.
When asked about the state of Russian-Czech relations due to recent events, namely the arrest of Ivan Safronov, advisor to the head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, for alleged handover of sensitive information to the Czech special services, Peskov mentioned another incident: the demolition of the monument to Soviet marshal Ivan Konev in Prague.
“Recently, our relations with the Czech Republic have been marred by certain events and certain unfriendly steps taken by the municipal and Czech government,” Peskov noted. “This has had a negative effect on the general state of our bilateral relations, however, Russia calls for good relations with all countries, including the Czech Republic,” the Kremlin spokesman said.
Two Russian diplomats are being expelled by the Czech government amid a hoax poison plot against three Prague politicians.
The government in Prague says infighting between Russian embassy staff resulted in one of them sending details of the fictitious plot to Czech intelligence. In response, the three mayors were initially given police protection.
Russia condemned the expulsions as an “unfriendly act”.
The expulsion was announced on Friday by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who described the move as “appropriate and adequate”.
“We are interested in having good relations with all countries, but we are a sovereign state and such actions are unacceptable on our territory.” He gave no more details about the new information.
“The government has offered an explanation, but we still don’t see the full picture,” said Ondřej Kundra of the Czech weekly Respekt, the journalist who broke the original story about the plot. “It’s hard to imagine the government would expel two Russian diplomats just because they said nasty things about each other.”
Was there a plot?
Details of an apparent plot first emerged in Czech weekly, Respekt, which reported that a Russian agent had travelled to Prague with a suitcase containing the highly potent toxin, ricin.
It claimed the poison might be used to target Czech politicians who had angered Russia. At the time Russia condemned the reports as “misinformation” and “sick fantasies”.
Czech TV then named the man involved as Andrei Konchakov, head of the Russian Centre for Science and Culture in Prague, and he rubbished the story saying he had merely brought “disinfectant and sweets” in his suitcase
Mr. Konchakov is one of the two diplomats ordered to leave, along with his deputy, Igor Rybakov, an official has told Ria Novosti.
The reports were taken seriously enough to send Ondrej Kolar, mayor of Prague’s sixth district, into hiding. He had ordered the removal of a statue of Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev in Prague, angering Russia.
Prague Mayor Zdenek Hrib had also annoyed Moscow by renaming a square next to the Russian embassy after murdered Russia opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. Another mayor had backed a memorial to the anti-Soviet “Russian Liberation Army”.
The Russian embassy in Prague dismissed the expulsion on its Facebook page as “provocation”.
“Based on ungrounded accusations in the media from the beginning, this hostile step shows Prague is not interested in normalising Russian-Czech relations, which have recently degraded, for which we cannot be blamed,” the embassy said.