Russia involved in the explosion of an ammunition complex

The Czech security forces have a reasonable suspicion that members of the Russian secret service GRU were involved in the explosion of the ammunition complex in Vrbětice in the Zlín region in 2014.

Due to this, 18 employees of the Russian embassy, who were identified as members of the Russian secret services, have been expelled from the Czech Republic. Police are looking for two men with a Russian passport - when the Vrbětice Warehouse exploded, they were in the Czech Republic. Five years later, Chepiga and Mishkin were discovered as Russian agents who unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate the double spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, Britain, by Novičok - a combat paralytic substance.

"Based on clear evidence obtained through the investigation of our security forces, I must state that there is a reasonable suspicion of involvement of officers of the Russian military intelligence service GRU (...) in the explosion of ammunition depots in the Vrbětice complex in 2014," said Babiš.

Two people had died during the explosions. The explosions caused considerable material damage and required the evacuation of residents from nearby villages. The explosions affected 1,319 hectares of land, of which about 341 hectares were directly in the area.

According to a newspaper, the police do not yet have direct evidence that both men actually physically entered the complex, but consider this hypothesis to be highly realistic. At that time, the warehouse allegedly contained weapons to be bought by a Bulgarian arms dealer. Apparently he was supplying weapons to Ukraine, which was just at war with Russia. The explosion was probably not to take place in the Czech Republic, but only during the transport of weapons in another country.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has responded to the allegations in the Vrbětice case and decided to expel 20 employees of the Czech Embassy, including sixteen diplomats. The accusation of the involvement of the Russian secret services in the 2014 explosion is considered by Moscow to be absurd and unfounded.

The Russian Federation has long had about twice as many diplomats and embassy staff in the Czech Republic as the Czech representation in Russia. The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Prague has around 120 employees, of which over 40 are diplomats. Around sixty employees work at the Czech representations in Russia.