The Czech police have issued a wanted notice for Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the two Russian intelligence agents wanted in the UK for the 2018 attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.
At the same time the Czech government announced it was expelling 18 Russian diplomats from Prague in connection with two explosions at an ammunition dump in 2014 that killed two people.
Although the Czech police only said Petrov and Boshirov were wanted in connection with a “serious crime” the wanted notice said the two men were in the Czech Republic from October 11 to 16, 2014.
On October 16 a massive blast ripped through an ammunition dump in the town of Vrbetice, killing two people and causing massive amounts of damage. Another explosion occurred at the same facility in December.
According to the Czech authorities, all the 18 diplomats, who now have 48 hours to leave the country, are members of either the GRU, Russia’s foreign military intelligence agency, or the SVR, the foreign intelligence agency.
Andrej Babis, the Czech prime minister, said the decision to expel the diplomats, came after an investigation into the explosions. He also said a GRU unit, specialising in foreign assassinations and operations to destabilise European countries, was involved.
“Based on unambiguous evidence gained through the investigation by the security forces I must state that there is a well-founded suspicion about the involvement of Russian intelligence service officers, and Unit 29155, in the explosion at the ammunition dump in Vrbetice in 2014,” said Mr Babis.
“The Czech Republic is a sovereign state and has to respond to the unprecedented findings [of the investigation] appropriately,” Mr Babis added.
Commenting on the decision to expel the diplomats, Jan Hamecek, the Czech interior minister, said: “We are in a similar situation to, for example, Britain with the case of the attempted poisoning in Salisbury.”
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov were the aliases used by two Russian military intelligence officers who British prosecutors charged with the attempted murder on British soil of Russian spy Sergei Skripal. They and Moscow both denied involvement.
Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent in Salisbury in March 2018.