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30 Apr, 2024 16:54

Czech police drop alleged Russian bombing case

Investigators say they could not gather enough evidence to charge the suspects accused of blowing up multiple arms warehouses
Czech police drop alleged Russian bombing case

Police in the Czech Republic have shelved a probe into the destruction of ammunition warehouses that took place ten years ago. Despite all of their leads turning up cold, the investigators maintain that Russian military intelligence blew up the structures.

The explosions occured in October and December 2014 at arms depots in Vrbetice in the south of the country, killing two Czech nationals. Prague said at the time that the warehouses had been storing ammunition that was to be sent to Ukraine. The authorities claimed that Russia sent operatives to destroy the consignment in an attempt to disrupt the shipment.

In April 2021, the Czech Republic expelled 18 Russian diplomats over the incident, a move to which Russia responded in kind.

In a statement on Monday, the head of the National Central Office against Organized Crime of the Criminal Police and Investigation Service (NCOZ), Jiri Mazanek, announced that the case had been closed and that no criminal charges would be filed.

“Russian military intelligence had the means to cause explosions,” Mazanek claimed, adding that the NCOZ believes a number of Russian operatives traveled to the Czech Republic at the time of the bombings before immediately returning to Russia. However, he admitted that “some information is missing” about these supposed agents’ movements within the country, and “one can only assume what tasks” they actually carried out and with whose help. 

With Russia refusing to assist the investigation and no further evidence available from the crime scene or from neighboring countries, Mazanek explained that “the police authority cannot obtain additional information that would allow the initiation of criminal prosecution, and for this reason decided to postpone the case.”

Despite the dead end, the police authority “considers it proven” that the explosions were “carried out by members of the Russian military intelligence, the Main Administration of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, known by the abbreviation GRU,” Mazanek added.

According to the statement, the 2014 blasts were “part of a long-term diversionary operation by Russian military intelligence” on EU and Ukrainian soil.

Commenting on similar claims by Czech authorities back in April 2021, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described them as a “shameful dead end,” suggesting that Prague had failed to provide any meaningful evidence.

Around the same time, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov alleged that the Czech Republic had imitated the US in taking “unpredictable and aggressive actions” against Moscow and said that the claims were “absolutely groundless.”