Russian agents also operated in Slovakia. Expulsion would make things harder for Moscow

Slovakia is likely to take action in the wake of the latest information about the Vrbetice blast.

Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly ChepigaAlexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga (Source: AP/TASR)

The military intelligence service had been following Oto Ch., a Slovak army official, for two years, when the police came for him in the spring of 2014. He was suspected of conducting espionage for Russia.

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The Slovak secret service had been intrigued about how frequently he was changing his luxury cars. As a deputy of the then chief of the General Staff, Peter Vojtek, he had direct access to most classified information that Slovakia received as an ally from NATO and the European Union.

Months later, the police still had not charged the military officer. The results of the prosecution of sabotage and corruption remain unknown to this day. The only thing we know is that Oto Ch. quit working for the armed forces shortly after he was detained.

Now, in the wake of the revelations of the probable sabotage by Russian agents that caused the explosion of an ammunition warehouse in the Czech village of Vrbětice in 2014, Slovakia is likely to react in a much more determined and unambiguous fashion. Slovakia is likely to expel some Russians with diplomatic cover.

Related article Slovakia’s Security Council summoned to discuss situation in Czechia Read more 

“Our response will be decisive, substantial and will prove our credibility towards our allies, in this case, the Czech Republic,” said Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok (SaS nominee). He added that he will act to make sure there are no doubts about where the Slovak Republic stands.

The Slovak authorities are awaiting more information from their Czech counterparts now. The Czech Deputy PM Jan Hamáček (ČSSD) has acknowledged the findings of the investigators and secret services as sufficient to allow him to speak of the engagement of the Russian secret service GRU in the Vrbětice blast.

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The Slovak government's Security Council will convene Tuesday, April 20, to discuss Slovakia's reaction in support of Czechia, including the option to expel Russian diplomats and agents.

Slovak officials, including the head of state, President Zuzana Čaputová, reacted on Sunday. The Visegrad Group foreign ministers have prepared a joint statement upon the initiative of Slovak minister Korčok.

A potential decision to expel some Russian diplomats from Slovakia may complicate the operation of the Russian agents on the country's territory.

"If you're asking if my predecessors and the previous government were informed about foreign powers carrying out various activities here, the answer is very simple: Yes, they were," Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď (OĽaNO) admitted there has been knowledge about Russian intelligence operations in Slovakia.

Agents from the 29155 elite unit of GRU allegedly operate in Slovakia. The men who were involved in the Vrbětice explosion, Alexandr Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov (the names in the passports they were using), are reportedly members of that unit too. Their real names are Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga.

The Czech authorities allege they are the same people who have been linked to the case of the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom.

Russian agents in the Tatras and in Bratislava

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