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Military Research Institute head sacked over Novichok scandal

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Prague, May 14 (CTK) – Defence Minister Karla Slechtova (ANO) on Monday dismissed the director of the Military Research Institute (VVU), Bohuslav Safar, whom Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) criticised over his statements about the Novichok agent, the Defence Minister has said on its webpage.

The VVU will be temporarily headed by its deputy director Josef Hrncirik and a tender will be put up for the post of its director.

Slechtova did not disclose the reasons for Safar’s dismissal to journalists or Safar himself.

Safar told CTK the minister had the right to dismiss the VVU director.

When Moscow said the Czech Republic may have been the originator of Novichok, Safar said poisonous substances were produced in the Czech Republic solely for laboratory purposes to test their properties and in a very small amount of some grammes only.

Safar said since only grammes were involved, this was no production, but “laboratory preparation of a small amount” for the testing of its qualities.

Novichok poison was used against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain in March.

President Milos Zeman has referred to Safar in connection with his own statement that Novichok really was produced in the Czech Republic. This was dismissed by other representatives of the Czech Republic.

Babis said Safar’s statement had been unfortunate.

He said Safar’s statement could have caused a misunderstanding with Zeman.

Babis said he had not asked Slechtova to dismiss Safar.

“I certainly did not ask her to dismiss him, but she informed me about it. It is true that some statements by Safar were controversial and played a certain role on the international scene,” he added.

“I thank Safar for his long-term work at the head of the VVU,” Slechtova said.

The VVU is a state-run company administered by the Defence Ministry. Its director is named or dismissed by the minister or the government.

Safar, who is still a VVU employee, has declined to comment on his dismissal.

He only said he had not learnt the reason for his dismissal.

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