The head of the Czech Foreign Ministry, Jakub Kulganek, said that relations between Moscow and Prague reached a critical point after the explosions in Vrbetica. However, he is confident that countries should try to restore dialogue.
In a column for the Czech iDNES portal, the head of the Czech Foreign Ministry statedthat relations between the two countries have gradually deteriorated since 2014. “I do not want to hide the fact that Czech-Russian relations have reached a critical level in many respects,” says Kulganek’s article, which was also published on website Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
At the same time, the minister notes that a complete rejection of relations with Russia, “which a part of the political spectrum calls for, would be short-sighted.” Kulganek is sure that we must strive to restore relations between Moscow and Prague, “even if it will be a long and undoubtedly thorny path.”
“The state of Russian-Czech bilateral relations cannot be reduced to our tense relations with the current political leadership of Russia. Russia is an influential country with geographical, economic and cultural influence,” the head of the Czech Foreign Ministry wrote.
According to Kulganek, “it is simply impossible not to have relations with Russia.” “This is evidenced by the summit of Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in June this year or the meeting of Chancellor Angela Merkel last week. Neither the Baltic countries nor Poland have interrupted their contacts with Moscow, although their relations have long become even stronger than ours,” the minister stressed.
Kulganek noted that economic ties with Moscow should not be neglected either. “Restoring relations with Russia will be a long process,” added the head of the Czech Foreign Ministry. Nevertheless, Kulganek believes, the authorities of the two countries “should try to start negotiations, but their result cannot be predicted.”
Czech intelligence services believe that Russian GRU officers were involved in the explosions at an ammunition depot in the village of Vrbetice in October 2014. The sabotage operation, according to the statement of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the special services, was supervised by officers of the Russian special services (GU of the General Staff of the Russian Federation and the SVR) at the Russian Embassy in Prague, who used diplomatic cover.
The Czech authorities put two people on the wanted list, who in 2014 entered the country with Russian passports in the name of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. We are talking about the same people who are suspected in the UK of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in 2018. It is alleged that their real names are Anatoly Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin.
Later Czech media wrotethat, in addition to alleged GRU agents Anatoly Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin, the investigation also includes another Russian – Nikolai Shaposhnikov, a former Russian serviceman who is now allegedly of Czech citizenship.
In June, the Czech authorities demanded compensation from Russia for damage from the explosions – 650 million kroons (about € 25.5 million). In July, Czech President Milos Zeman officially backed a bill to pay compensation to victims of the explosions.