The Minister of foreign Affairs tomáš Petricek first told the publication “Denikin” about why the Czech Republic has decided to expel two Russian diplomats. He explains that between them there was a personal struggle, which resulted in the investigation of security and information (BIS) and the deterioration of relations between Prague and Moscow. “In fact, between the two of them had a conflict. This led to the fact that our intelligence services had to work with fictitious information,” — said in an interview with the head of the Czech foreign Ministry.
– DeníkN: Why the government had expelled two Russian diplomats?
Tomas Petricek: As stated at the press conference, the Prime Minister, the decision is based on information received from our intelligence services. The whole story about the threat to the lives of our municipal politicians have arisen due to the fact that the two employees of the Russian Embassy in Prague was a struggle.
– Both of them sent?
– Can you confirm that this is Andrew Konchakov and Igor Rybakov?
— With your permission, I will refrain from comments.
– Can you at least say whether they worked at the Russian centre of science and culture?
I don’t want to name names and positions of these two members of the Russian Embassy. We would like to get out of this situation without too much publicity. In fact, the Declaration of a diplomat persona non grata in diplomatic relations is just an exceptional step.
– Why solve the problem by diplomatic means failed?
We considered the options when we would not need to resort to such exceptional measures. We wanted to solve the problem without too much publicity. This story started with two employees of the Russian Embassy, and, unfortunately, it affected the relations between the Czech Republic and the Russian Federation.
– Why Russia refused to help?
I can’t comment on that. The case of the Russian side.
– Probably, your suggestions are rejected, giving some explanations…
Yes, of course, but that’s a topic for discussion with the Ambassador, and of the topic of diplomatic negotiations, I do not want to disclose in the media.
– That is, have you discussed this directly with Mr. Ambassador?
— I have repeatedly met with the Ambassador to speak on this topic.
– In the last days or weeks?
— Yes, the latest talks were held this morning.
That is, even today, you attempted to negotiate?
— Without comments.
– What is the solution offered by the Czech side?
— There is always the option, when the other party in advance of the formal steps she is withdrawing their officers.
– But Russia has refused?
— We talked about this with the Ambassador. The Russian proposal was unacceptable for us.
Today the Ambassador was in Czernin Palace (the building of the Ministry of foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic — approx. transl.) 15 minutes. You all have time?
Over the last ten days I met with the Ambassador three times.
– How do you assess the work of Rossotrudnichestvo, where he worked both expelled diplomats in our country?
— I have to say that it has no information about his work. So far I have not had to touch the staff of Rossotrudnichestvo. In the words of Mr. Prime Babish, we are interested in the correct relationship with the Russian Federation. We are encouraged to initiate consultations, according to the fifth article, about which I talked with the deputies and senators. We don’t want to add fuel to the fire, but the effort must be mutual. Respect needs to show both sides.
– Do not you think that this organization carries out more exploration than culture? In the world with this several times already faced, for example, in the United States.
— I can confirm that we at the Ministry of foreign Affairs have been using the information from our intelligence services. The BIS service has played an important role and showed great professionalism when dealing with this case.
– I’ll repeat the question. Don’t you think that this organization is engaged in the exploration?
— I don’t think it deals primarily with intelligence.
But you can’t deny it’s apparently part of her work.
— Certainly, we with our intelligence agencies monitor the activities of the Russian intelligence services, and not just in our country. It is a question of our national security.
– Have you consulted about the expulsion of Russian diplomats with President Milos Zeman?
— We consulted with members of the government, and Prime Minister Andrew Babish.
– I’ll ask again. Did this Mr. President?
— Without comments.
– Who proposed to you and the Prime Minister to expel these people?
First, we wanted to solve everything quietly. We all supported this option, but in the end it proved impossible. Then Mr Prime Minister has discussed these BIS service and decided to take this step, adhering to the Vienna Convention.
– You had to persuade Mr. Prime Minister?
— Mr. Prime Minister, like all of us, employees of the Ministry of foreign Affairs, really listens to information from intelligence agencies. At a press conference, he praised the work of the BIS. I think that this is important and we are serious about this information.
– How your decision will affect our relations with Moscow?
We must understand that Russia will respond symmetrically. Employees of our Embassy can send. We have reaffirmed the interest in continuing the negotiations and want correct relations with the Russian Federation.
– Do you fear that the negotiations might fall through, since so far they have not really started?
— We will continue this process, but so far negotiations have not begun in full. We are discussing the agenda and format of the consultations. I am sure that both sides are interested in discussing this sensitive issue at the diplomatic level and in its decision. Is to find positive moments in our relationship and resume consultation and dialogue at the governmental level.
– Can the Russian response to touch of the Czech house in Moscow?
— As a rule, the other side responds symmetrically. I have no information what will be the reaction. Now we have to wait.
– When you, Mr Prime Minister decided to send both diplomats? This week?
We acted according to the reaction of the Russian side. The details of this decision, I’m not going to tell.
– Whether the expulsion of suspicion that the two diplomats work in the secret services?
I said that it is associated primarily with the history that influenced our relations with Russia. Two employees of the Russian Embassy, apparently to settle personal scores. And that in the end it became the subject of an investigation, of course, had an impact on the current situation.
– You need to understand that the expelled diplomat Konchakov, about which so much was written, was no threat for three of our Prague politicians who allocated police protection?
— According to information which we received, actually took place the conflict between the two. He cited the fact that our intelligence services had to work with fictitious information.
– You mean the information about the alleged ricin in the suitcase?
— We had to act preemptively. We have no right to underestimate the information we collect. Especially if we are talking about such serious things. We certainly did the right thing. So very frustrating that such a thing happened.
You say that this information became public?
— No, I’m saying that the whole story arose from the conflict between the two employees of the Embassy.
Now there is a possibility that the police cease to protect Prague three politicians?
The decision rests with the police. It is beyond the competence of the Ministry of foreign Affairs. We do not carry out the tasks of the security services and the police.
– Can you confirm or deny that someone from the Russian Embassy brought to Czech Republic some kind of poison? Whether the Czech intelligence data about this?
— Given that this is secret information, I can confirm that this whole story arose because of fictional information that our intelligence services gave the employee of the Russian Embassy.
– Whether the Communists now insist on your resignation?
It is important to me that I have the support of the Chairman of the social democratic party and its members.
– Mr. Prime Minister, too, supports you?
— What, Mr Prime Minister consider these issues, confirms the effectiveness of our joint work. Our goal is to defend the interests of the Czech Republic and perform software installations of our government. And I think I make a contribution.