Deputy PM Hamáček denies plan to cover up Vrbětice scandal in exchange for Sputnik vaccine

Seznam Zprávy reported the scrapped trip to Moscow was to offer a deal to get the vaccine and the right to host a summit.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 04.05.2021 12:00:00 (updated on 04.05.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček has denied a report that he wanted to cover up a scandal related to the 2014 attack on ammunition depots in Vrbětice in exchange for supplies of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and right to host a U.S.–Russia summit in Prague. Opposition politicians have called for his resignation.

“The article is based on speculation and lies, which none of the participants confirmed and could not confirm because it did not happen,” Hamáček said in a series of posts on Twitter.

New server Seznam Zprávy reported that the deal was to have been made on Hamáček’s planned trip to Moscow, which was eventually canceled after the Vrbětice scandal broke. The trip was to have taken place April 19, but information about the alleged involvement of Russian GRU security agents in the explosions at the Vrbětice ammo depot came out on April 17.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Hamáček, who is also interior minister, at a surprise April 17 press conference announced that 18 Russian diplomats would be expelled in response to the news about Russia’s involvement in the explosions. Russia responded by expelling 20 employees of the Czech Embassy in Moscow.

Later, Czech diplomacy called for the expulsion of more Russian diplomats from the Czech Republic by the end of May, and Russia announced that it was moving “in strict parity” in the number of embassy staff. Several other countries also expelled Russian diplomats in a sign of solidarity.

According to the Seznam Zprávy report, Hamáček communicated his travel plans to the participants of the meeting at the Interior Ministry on April 15. The participants included Czech Ambassador to Russia Vítězslav Pivoňka, Foreign Relations and Information Office director Marek Šimandl, Military Intelligence director Jan Beroun, and Police President Jan Švejdar. Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman joined later.


Beroun, Švejdar. and Šimandl tried to convince Hamáček to cancel his planned visit to Moscow, the server wrote, adding that they argued that no such bargain was possible in the given situation and that a minister should not negotiate about it. All three have confirmed that they took part in the meeting, but they did not comment on its contents. Šimandl said the talks were in the interests of the Czech Republic from the view of both the foreign policy and state security.

According to the server, Pavel Zeman presented how the Vrbětice case might be concluded, including its shelving, and Hamáček wanted to use this argument in Moscow.

Pivoňka originally supported Hamáček, but finally changed his opinion. He allegedly made Hamáček scrap the plan, according to Seznam Zprávy.

Hamáček said several meetings took place in the Interior Ministry on April 14 with the participation of directors of security forces, the supreme state attorney, and the Czech ambassador to Moscow.

“The only topic of the meetings was the impact of the Vrbětice case on state security and relations between the Czech Republic and Russia, partly because the media demonstrably had some information about the Vrbětice case and threatened to leak it,” Hamáček said.

"At no time was the subject of negotiations any trade with the Russian Federation. These unsubstantiated speculations harm the interests of the Czech Republic and advance the interests of a foreign power," Hamáček added.

Hamáček said on April 18 that the planned Moscow trip was never intended to take place, and that it was part of the preparations to expel Russian diplomats. “I knew beforehand that the trip to Moscow will not take place. It was a coordinated operation," he said. “For understandable reasons, I cannot tell all details to the public," he said on Twitter.

Civic Democrat (ODS) chairman Petr Fiala has called for Hamáček to resign, and added that the Spolu coalition also supports this. Fiala said Hamáček had threatened the safety of cirizens. Spolu is coalition of the center right parties ODS, Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), and TOP 09.

Fiala also tweeted that the Czech Republic was  “not for sale” and that there should be a vote of no confidence to end the current government.

TOP 09 chairwoman Markéta Pekarová Adamová also called for Hamáček’s resignation, adding that if Hamáček remains the chairman of the Social Democrats (ČSSD), then the word “democratic” in the name of the party makes no sense.

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