Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Allegations of selling arms to Russia met with silence in Prague

  • “It is in no way a breach of the embargo," says Prague (Photo: Yarden Sachs)

Allegations that Czech companies have been selling arms to Russia despite an EU embargo have been met with a strange silence in Prague.

Polish daily Rzeczpospolita reported earlier this week that two Czech companies, Cairo CZ and Exim Arms, have been exporting firearms to Russia throughout the year – despite the fact that, since 1 August 2014, and arms embargo has been in place due to the war in eastern Ukraine.

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According to the report, the Czech firms sold thousands of firearms of German provenance (Heckler Koch and SIG Sauer), as well as American Bushmasters, plus tens of thousands of bullets.

These types of guns are popular with hunters and sports shooters, but also with special forces around the world, including the US Delta Force and the British SAS.

And it is not difficult to refurbish them into combat machine guns, the paper notes, saying it has invoices from both Czech companies for the items, some of which date to as recently as last month.

The Czech ministries of industry and foreign affairs have denied the allegations that the country is illegally feeding the Russians with guns.

The foreign office says it has been very strict with the embargo and any arms delivery executed since only concerns pre-embargo deals.

The industry ministry contested the alleged volume of the sales, saying it has been “units of guns, not thousands” to Russia and for hunting and sports usage only. “It is in no way a breach of the embargo,” says the institution in its statement.

According to various sources from both ministries, no one is investigating the case further.

This is despite the fact that the second company, Exim Arms, bears the features of a fake intermediary. The firm does not have a website or an address and the phone numbers on its leaflets are not in service.

Foreign minister Lubomir Zaoralek was at the UN in Geneva when the report went public, and industry minister Jan Mladek has been in Azerbaijan since the beginning of the week.

The unusual silence has not been broken by the opposition either, despite the potentially damaging effect of the report on the Czech Republic.

Only the media and the arms lobby have been talking about the issue.

This may be due to the fact that the opposition has been in political ruins for quite some time and is struggling to keep track of daily affairs.

The silence of the ruling social democrats, the party to which both the industry and foreign ministers belong, comes ahead of the party congress in mid-March.

Due to the party infighting, and divisions over the Ukraine crisis - most of the backbenchers are pro-Russian - public statements on foreign policy have been at a minimum for several weeks.

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