What has happened?
- A day after the Czech Republic expelled 18 Russian diplomats, the Kremlin on Sunday retaliated by announcing it would send back that have already been strained in recent times.
- Prague had accused Russian embassy officials of being intelligence operatives, and said that it suspected them of being involved in a 2014 explosion at an arms depot that left two dead.
- Russia offered scathing criticism of the b, saying,
- “In their desire to please the United States against the background of recent US sanctions against Russia, Czech authorities in this respect even outdid their masters from across the pond”.
- Last year in June, Russia was accused of being behind a poisoning scare targeting Czech politicians, including the mayor of Prague.
- Prague had then expelled 2 Russian diplomats, Moscow did the same.
- According to Czech intelligence, Russian operatives were involved in an October 2014 blast at an arms storage depot in a wooded part of the country near the border with Slovakia.
- Two people who worked there died, and their remains were found after more than a month.
- The incident was then labelled an accident.
- However, investigative work by Czech authorities led them to lay the blame on Russia, specifically Unit 29155 of GRU intelligence
- Reports in Czech media claimed that munitions at the depot were destined for Ukraine to fight
- Russia-backed forces, or To forces against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, which Russia supports.
Link to Salisbury attack
- Czech police have identified two men in connection with the blast – Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga –
- Who are also accused of involvement in an attack using the nerve agent Novichok in the English city of Salisbury three years ago.
- A former Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned, while a local woman, Dawn Sturgess, was killed months later by Novichok traces on a discarded perfume bottle.
- Investigative site Bellingcat identified the Salisbury suspects Ruslan Boshirov as Anatoly Chepiga, and Alexander Petrov as Alexander Mishkin, both GRU officers.
- The two had booked accommodation near the blast site from October 13 to 17, and the blast occurred on October 16.
- The same day of the explosion, the pair went to Austria and took a flight to Moscow.
- Russia has denied all accusations, calling them absurd.
- The diplomatic escalation between Prague and Moscow is believed to be the most serious since 1989, when the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe ended.
- It also adds to the worsening of relations between the West and Russia, which are already being tested by Russia’s military buildup on its western frontier as well as in Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
- The US has also said that it stands with its NATO ally in its “firm response against Russia’s subversive actions on Czech soil”. bJake Sullivan said that Washington had warned Moscow that “there will be consequences”
- If jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies while in prison, where he is on hunger strike.
Q) Which of the following countries was NOT one of the countries formed out of the former Soviet Union?