Moscow may ban Czech beer and imports due to embassy expulsions

Russia might go beyond a 'mirror' response to the expulsion of its diplomats, according to Russian server Kommersant.

ČTK

Written by ČTK
Published on 26.04.2021 11:49 (updated on 26.04.2021)

Moscow, April 25 (ČTK) – Moscow is considering imposing economic sanctions against the Czech Republic in response to the expulsion of a large number of its diplomats from Prague, the Russian paper Kommersant writes, referring to two government sources.

Limitations on Czech exports to Russia, for example, could include Czech beer, a sector that has already been hard hit by a drop in sales due to the pandemic.

Moscow "will perhaps have to" resort to economic sanctions because "Prague's unprecedented aggressive behavior cannot remain unanswered," one of the sources told the paper, adding that Russia could not react "in a purely mirror fashion."

"Last week, Czech authorities accused Russian secret services of being implicated in the blasts in the ammunition store in the village of Vrbětice in 2014 and announced the expulsion of 18 Russian diplomats," the paper writes.

"Russia reacted by the expulsion of 20 Czech embassy employees. Prague then announced the expulsion of another 63 Russians, but Russian authorities cannot give a symmetric reply because only seven Czech diplomats and 25 administrative and technical staff have remained in Moscow," Kommersant writes.

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Russia subsequently decided to limit the local staff that the Czech Embassy in Moscow may hire to 19 (according to diplomatic sources, the Czech Embassy now employs about 110 Russian citizens), on account of which their number will be equal to that of the Czechs hired by the Russian Embassy in Prague.

However, the Kremlin does not consider this a symmetric reply.

"If Moscow acted in a mirror fashion, it would have to expel all the employees of the embassy, including the ambassador, which will be close to a severance of diplomatic relations. Hence, they are considering alternative responses," the source told Kommersant.

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According to the Russian Customs Authority, the volume of the trade between Russia and the Czech Republic fell by 43 percent last year, largely due to the coronavirus epidemic. It was about USD 5.2 billion, while exports from the Czech Republic to Russia were worth USD 2.7 billion.

The Russian measures may affect some manufacturing branches, but when drafting the "black list," the authorities will follow the principle "do not harm yourself," the sources told the daily.

One of them presumes that the measures will relate to Czech beer. Last year, the Czech Republic exported beer worth USD 38 million to Russia, some 10 percent more than in 2019. Currently, about 10 brands of Czech beer are sold to Russia.