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President Zeman expects no Novichok to be revealed in his country

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Prague, March 27 (CTK) – President Milos Zeman believes the Novichok nerve agent, which was used to attack Russian former spy Sergei Skripal in Britain, has not been produced or stored in the Czech Republic, but it will be better if the BIS counter-intelligence checks it, he told tabloid Blesk on Tuesday.

“Let’s check it so that we can sleep well,” he said.

On Monday, Zeman ordered BIS chief Michal Koudelka to check if Novichok was stored in Czech territory. He is to receive a report from BIS within a month.

Zeman told Blesk’s website that the State Office for Nuclear Safety (SUJB) should deal with the case.

The SUJB said last week that the Czech Republic neither owns, nor produces nor develops chemical weapons. According to SUJB’s information, a substance of the Novichok type has not been handled in the Czech Republic.

Zeman said he was unsettled by a recent article issued by the Czech daily Lidove noviny (LN) which cites a researcher who admits that Novichok had been stored in the Czech Republic and the whole thing was top secret.

LN wrote on Friday that Czech scientists admitted the theoretical possibility of Novichok being secretly developed in Czech territory.

Zeman said other sources, which he cannot disclose, indicated such a possibility as well.

Russian officials recently claimed that the Czech Republic was one of the countries that developed Novichok. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis resolutely rejected it. He called it “a blatant lie” and said Russia went too far.

Along with a number of other EU countries on Monday, the Czech Republic announced it was expelling Russian diplomats in reaction to the attack on Skripal as a sign of solidarity with Britain. Babis said the three employees of the Russian embassy in Prague who are expelled are covert agents, not diplomats. The three must leave the Czech Republic by April 1, along with their families.

Zeman said it is Babis and his government that make the decision on expulsions of diplomats. He said he has nothing against the expulsion of the Russian diplomats.

Some politicians challenged the fact that Zeman assigned a task to the BIS. Zeman rejected the criticism and said the president has the right to do so. He said he told Babis about his step.

The BIS writes on its website that the president can assign a task to it if the government knows of this task.

The Czech right-wing opposition said Zeman joined the spread of disinformation and contributed to Russia’s hybrid war against the western countries. The Communists (KSCM) and the anti-EU Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) supported Zeman.

When commenting on Zeman’s order to search for Novichok, former parliament chairwoman Miroslava Nemcova (right-wing opposition Civic Democrats, ODS) said Zeman committed high treason from the political point of view, but not from the criminal point of view.

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