Over the past week, the Czech Republic has expelled Russian diplomats and encouraged its allies to do the same over Moscow’s alleged involvement in a 2014 explosion at a Czech weapons depot. But on Sunday, Czech President Milos Zeman said the idea that Russian intelligence was responsible for the blast is just a theory and that the possibility that it was an accident shouldn’t be ruled out.
“We are working with two investigative theories — the first, original one, that there was an explosion resulting from inexpert handling of explosives, and the second that it was an operation of a foreign intelligence service,” Czech President Milos Zeman said. “I take both of these theories seriously and I wish for them to be thoroughly investigated.”
Earlier this month, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis announced Prague was expelling 18 Russian diplomats over the 2014 blast. When announcing the move, Babis said there is a “well-grounded suspicion about the involvement of officers of the Russian intelligence service GRU” in the explosion, which suggests he had no definitive proof that Moscow was responsible.
Regardless of the facts, the accusation has significantly escalated tensions between Russia, the Czech Republic, and other European countries that have decided to expel diplomats over the claim. Moscow responded by ordering 20 Czech diplomats out of Russia, which Prague called a “disproportionate” move. In response to Russia’s move, the Czech Republic then ordered 60 Russian diplomats and embassy staff out of the country.
The Czech Republic has asked its allies to also expel Russian diplomats in “solidarity” with Prague. So far, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania have all followed suit. Between the five countries, eight Russian diplomats have been ordered to go home.