Russia has expelled 20 Czech diplomats in an escalating row after Prague claimed two Russian intelligence officers accused of the Salisbury spy poisonings also blew up an ammunition depot in the Czech Republic.
The Czech officials were given just a day to leave in a harsher than tit-for-tat response to a decision by the Czech government a day earlier to kick 18 Russian diplomats out of their country within 72 hours.
Prague and Moscow diplomatic face off is at lowest the end of decades of Soviet domination of eastern Europe in 1989.
They come as a recent build-up of Russian forces on Russia’s border with Ukraine ratchet up tensions between Moscow and the West.
The expulsions were unveiled after the Czech ambassador in Moscow, Vitezslav Pivonka, had been summoned by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“Pivonka had been told that 20 employees of the Czech embassy in Moscow had been declared ‘persona non grata’,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“They have been ordered to leave our country by the end of April 19, 2021,” the ministry added, calling the Czech government’s decision to expel Russian diplomats a “hostile act.”