UK gives Czechs 'full support' over Russia

·2-min read

Britain stands in "full support" of the Czech Republic, which has announced it will expel 18 diplomats over suspicions Russian intelligence services were involved in an ammunition depot explosion in 2014.

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab says Prague's action has exposed the lengths Russian intelligence services will go to.

Several explosions shook the Vrbetice ammunition depot, 330km southeast of Prague, on October 16, 2014.

They killed two employees of a private company that was renting the depot from a state military organisation.

Czech police said on Saturday they were searching for two men in connection with serious criminal activity.

The two were carrying Russian passports in the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, and were in the country in the days leading up to the blast in 2014.

Those were the aliases used by two Russian military intelligence (GRU) officers who British prosecutors charged with the attempted poisoning of Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the nerve agent Novichok in 2018.

Moscow denied involvement in that incident.

"The UK stands in full support of our Czech allies, who have exposed the lengths that the GRU will go to in their attempts to conduct dangerous and malign operations - and highlights a disturbing pattern of behaviour following the attack in Salisbury," Raab said on Twitter.

Ties between Britain and Russia have plunged to post-Cold War lows, with London calling the country "the most acute threat to our security" in the Euro-Atlantic region in its foreign and defence policy statement last month.

In an interview conducted for the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Friday, Russian Ambassador Andrei Kelin said he had not seen Raab for more than a year.

"In the recent year our relations have become worse ... even worse," Kelin said in the interview, which aired on Sunday.