Clash between Russia and Czech Republic
The Czech Republic and Russia are locked in a diplomatic dispute following the revelation of a Russian intelligence operation that led to the explosion of a Czech ammunition depot in 2014. Both sides have expelled staff at each other's embassies. Now Czech President Miloš Zeman has broken his silence and voiced doubts about the investigators' findings. What is going on?
Zeman fulfilling all the Kremlin's expectations
In voicing doubts about the results of the investigation the Czech president is playing into Moscow's hands, Hospodářské noviny writes angrily:
“Unfortunately, those who expected Zeman to play down the Russian attack which bordered on state terrorism were right. ... The president has questioned the work of his own country's secret service in an extraordinary way. This is unprecedented. Zeman followed to the letter the textbook of hybrid warfare according to which everything must be blurred and questioned so that the truth remains obscure. ... Vladimir Putin will be pleased. The champagne corks are popping in Moscow.”
Moscow's anger-driven own goal
Both states have said they now plan to greatly reduce the their embassy staff in the other country. This affects Russian citizens in particular, Echo of Moscow writes, annoyed:
“As in every other EU country, many more Russians use the services of the Russian consulate in the Czech Republic than Czechs who want a visa to travel to Russia. In Russia the situation is similar - the Czech consulate is mainly used by Russians who want a Schengen visa, not by Czechs living in Moscow. Unlike the West, the Kremlin cannot freeze accounts, block the purchase of US or EU government bonds or ban the export of technology. So enraged by its own powerlessness, it vents its anger on its own citizens.”