Tuesday

11th May 2021

Even Orbán rebukes Russia for Czech attack

  • Viktor Orbán: leaders from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia often meet often to coordinate policy (Photo: Council of the European Union)

Even the EU's most Russia-friendly leader, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, has voiced solidarity with the Czechs, as fallout continues over a Russian bomb attack.

Orbán has a track record of vetoing or watering down EU statements critical of his friends in China, Israel, and Russia.

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But even he joined the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia in issuing the rebuke to Moscow on Monday (26 April).

"We condemn ... yet another deplorable act of aggression and breach of international law committed by Russia on European soil," they said in a statement, after Warsaw had convened their emergency video-summit.

They corroborated Czech findings that "Russian military intelligence operatives" were behind "the explosion at the Vrbětice ammunition depot in 2014", which killed two people.

"We will not allow these [Russian intelligence] activities to divide Europe," they also said.

Romania, the same day, expelled a Russian diplomat in solidarity with Prague.

The Russian embassy's deputy military attaché, Alexei Grichayev, was deemed persona non-grata for "activities and actions contravene the provisions of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969," it said, referring to espionage.

Poland and Bulgaria are expected to follow suit this week, diplomatic sources said, after Slovakia and the Baltic states already took steps last week.

And other EU countries could get drawn into the events, after Russia, also on Monday, ejected an Italian diplomat in an unrelated spy row.

For his part, the pro-Russian Czech president Miloš Zeman tried to muddy the water on Sunday by claiming Russia might not have been behind the 2014 blast after all.

But that saw Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš redouble on the official, anti-Russian accusation on Monday.

It also led some Czech MPs to call for Zeman's prosecution for treason.

Meanwhile, Russia has denied wrongdoing, while seizing on Zeman's comments.

Its foreign ministry has also suggested the Vrbětice warehouse had stored landmines, which are banned under international treaties.

"The EU should probably examine all these confusing comments and statements [on landmines] ... It all happened on its territory," Russian foreign ministry Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.

"Some people ... have already made their choice that there are no theories other than Russia's blame," he added.

Poland and Hungary win at EU court on taxes

The Hungarian tax initially imposed a rate of 50 percent of sales on the biggest networks. Critics saw this as an attack on RTL Klub, the country's most-watched commercial broadcaster, and as a way of undermining the free press.

Bulgaria accuses Russia of other bomb attacks on Nato

Four explosions and an assassination attempt in Bulgaria were likely perpetrated by Russia, Bulgaria has said, after the Czech Republic, a fellow Nato ally, said Russia killed two people there in 2014.

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