Story By: Gheorghi Caraseni, Sub Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash
Russian officials have denied sending a diplomat armed with poison to the Czech Republic to murder the Mayor of Prague for removing a statue of a Russian war hero.
In an official note, the Russian embassy in the Czech Republic said “not one of the diplomatic staff of the Russian Embassy in the Czech Republic has arrived at Prague Airport since mid-March” despite Czech officials claiming the man was “a properly accredited Russian diplomat”.
The note read: “In connection with the statement by the Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman stating ‘the fact is that about three weeks ago a properly accredited Russian diplomat returned to Prague from a business trip, whom his colleagues took away from the airport’, we report that this is not really a fact.
“Since mid-March of this year, not one of the diplomatic staff of the Russian Embassy in the Czech Republic has arrived at Prague Airport.”
The note comes as reports state the Mayor of the Czech capital Zdenek Hrib has been placed under police protection because of fears for his life.
The diplomatic incident began after Czech magazine Respekt had reported on 26th April an unnamed man had arrived in the Czech Republic from Russia three weeks previous with a diplomatic passport and “ricin” poison with him.
The publication claimed that the Russian agent had arrived to poison the head of the 6th district administration of Prague, Ondrzej Kolar and mayor Hrib for organising the dismantling of a statue of a Russian war hero in Prague.
On 27th April, the Russian Embassy in the Czech Republic requested the Czech Foreign Ministry, in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, “take all appropriate measures to prevent attacks on the personality and dignity of Russian diplomats”.
However, the official representative of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zuzana Stichova called the note from the Russian Embassy in Prague “inappropriate” as “it is aimed at restricting the work of independent media”.
Stichova said freedom of the press and prohibition of censorship in accordance with the Declaration of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, in which the Foreign Ministry does not intend to intervene, operate in the Czech Republic.
Kolar and Hrib had overseen the removal of a statue from the Cold War era dedicated to Soviet general Ivan Konev, which was taken down on 3rd April.
Russian officials called the removal an “unfriendly” piece of vandalism but the move was supported by many Czechs who see Konev as a Soviet oppressor.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova,44, has called the reports of the Russian agent with poison “fake” and another irritant in bilateral relations between the two states.
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