PM Babiš calls 2014 explosion a ‘terrorist attack’ after previously avoiding the phrase

Babiš’s earlier remarks about Russia’s involvement in the 2014 blast had been criticized for not being strong enough.

ČTK

Written by ČTK Published on 20.04.2021 17:22 (updated on 20.04.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

The 2014 blast in the ammunition warehouses in Vrbětice, south Moravia, was an unprecedented terrorist attack on Czech territory, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš told journalists today, while he said on Monday that this was not an act of state terrorism.

"It was, of course, a disgusting and completely unacceptable act of terrorism," Babiš said in the Chamber of Deputies. Referring to the interpretation of the Attorney General Pavel Zeman, however, he said that from a legal point of view, the participation of agents of the Russian military intelligence service GRU in the explosion was not an "act of terrorism against the Czech Republic."

Babiš also said on Monday the blast was an attack on the goods of a Bulgarian businessman, for which he was fiercely criticized by the opposition and Social Democrat (ČSSD) first deputy chairman Roman Onderka.

"I used the word goods, for which I apologize. I did not mean it so. I feel sorry that our fellow citizens lost their lives," Babiš told journalists. "I only interpreted what we were told," he added.

The attack not only killed two Czech citizens, Vratislav Havránek and Luděk Petřík, but the explosion also caused considerable material damage.

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"I consider it an utterly unacceptable statement of Prime Minister Babiš that it was an ‘attack on goods’ or something similar. It is good that the Prime Minister has taken back his words. It was an act of state terrorism.," the head of the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS), Petr Fiala, responded. He insists that the attack by two Russian military secret service GRU officers was an act of state terrorism because it was committed by the state.

"This is an attack by one state through its agents on another state," Mayors and Independents (STAN) chairman Vít Rakušan said.

The chairman of the Communists (KSČM), Vojtěch Filip, had a different opinion. "For me as a lawyer, the difference between reasonable suspicion and evidence is important," said Filip.

In reaction to the Czech intelligence report on Russian GRU agents having caused the blast, the Czech government has expelled 18 employees of the Russian embassy. Russia responded by expelling 20 employees of the Czech Embassy in Moscow.

Acting Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček (ČSSD) announced today that he had summoned Ambassador of Russia Alexandr Zmeyevsky for Wednesday afternoon. He wants to convey protest against Russia's conduct.

Hamáček said Czech ambassadors to EU and NATO membership countries should ask the allies for solidarity and a coordinated approach.

The Czech Republic wants these countries to consider summoning Russian ambassadors or a collective action in the form of solidarity expulsion of identified officers of the Russian intelligence services from EU and NATO member countries, he added.

Just before the press conference, the Social Democrats dismissed Babiš's words from Monday about the Vrbětice incident. Onderka said they were untrue.

The Social Democrat board also recommended to Hamáček, the re-elected party leader, that the representation at the diplomatic offices in Prague and Moscow be even.

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