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NO PROOF to support ‘Russian assassin’ story, Czech govt concedes – yet minister claims suspicions are still ‘credible’

NO PROOF to support ‘Russian assassin’ story, Czech govt concedes – yet minister claims suspicions are still ‘credible’
The Czech interior minister has admitted that Prague has no evidence against a Russian diplomat branded by media as a poison courier in an alleged assassination plot. It didn’t stop the minister pushing the theory further, though.

An acting head of the Russian foreign aid agency’s office in the Czech Republic, Andrey Konchakov, has recently found himself at the center of a scandal, after local media identified him as a suspected “spy” supposedly involved in a plot to assassinate several local officials.

Now, Czech Minster of the Interior Jan Hamacek is explaining that expelling the man could prove complicated precisely because mere suspicions do not give the state grounds for it. And it appears that mere suspicions are, in fact, all that Czech authorities have in this instance.

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“One could expel him provided that one has concrete evidence that he is doing something [illegal] here. Unfortunately, as the whole thing develops, the police probably do not have this evidence,” Hamacek told broadcaster Czech Television on Sunday.

The fact that the security services have, some three weeks after the ‘spy story’ was broken to the public by local magazine Respekt, failed to find any proof of the allegations leveled against the Russian diplomat, has not stopped the minister from maintaining the alleged plot was real.

Instead, Hamacek blamed the person who supposedly leaked the information about the suspected “spy” to the media for ruining the security forces’ game plan. “It complicated the lives of many people, complicated the work of security services, disrupted the reaction of our agencies to the potential threats and endangered a lot of lives at the same time,” he said, vowing to subject the person responsible for the leak to “exemplary punishment.”

The Czech Security Information Service has already filed a criminal complaint over the leak of the “classified information” and the police is now investigating the case.

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Czech media reports claimed that Konchakov arrived in Prague on a diplomatic visa and was supposedly carrying ricin – a highly potent toxin – in his briefcase. The Czech intelligence - said to have already been aware of the nefarious ‘plot’– did not intercept the package at that time, though.

However, the Czech authorities perceived the threat seriously enough to grant police protection to Prague mayor Zdenek Hrib and to municipal heads, who were considered targets in this ‘spy’ story. All three were involved in a series of spats with Russia, including one over the demolition of a statue of Marshal Ivan Konev. Konev was a Soviet military commander who led the forces that liberated Prague during World War II.

Konchakov himself dismissed the allegations, as did the head of Rossotrudnichestvo, Eleonora Mitrofanova, who said her employee is a man who is “fond of” the Czech Republic and “loves” the country. She also called the whole story “pure provocation.”

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Meanwhile, the Russian embassy in Prague has in turn asked the police to afford Konchakov their special protection, after the diplomat started “receiving threats” following the “harassment campaign” launched in the Czech media.

The police were apparently in no rush to fulfil this request: according to Hamacek, Konchakov has not received special protection yet, about a week after the embassy raised the alarm.

The leaders of the opposition Civic Democratic Party and the Party of Mayors and Independents were even more outspoken in their remarks on the issue of the security of the Russian diplomat. If he does not feel safe in the Czech Republic, he should simply return to his homeland, they advised.

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