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Making Russia pay for the damage it caused

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It seems that the diplomatic aftermath of the ‘Vrbětice scandal’ is far from over. In April, the Czech government has officially presented its findings regarding the explosion of the munitions depot in Vrbětice, a small village near Zlín. This happened in 2014, claimed the lives of 2 Czech citizens and has since cost over 650 million crowns to clean up. The Czech government has presented evidence of this explosion being caused by the GRU, a division of the Russian special forces often connected to other recent scandals all over Europe.

While both governments have already reacted to this by expelling some of their respective diplomats (with some allied countries joining in in solidarity), it seems as though a second wave of worsening diplomatic relations between the Czech Republic and the Russian Federation may be coming. While Russia made its move by putting Czechia on its list of ‘unfriendly countries’, the Czech move seems to have been made today, as Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Smolek handed over a diplomatic note to Russian Ambassador Alexander Zmejevsky demanding full compensation for the damage caused by the explosion in Vrbětice. Despite these demands, Czechia could still be very far from getting compensated. As a sovereign state, Russia does not historically compensate court-declared wins to victims.

According to a law proposed a few days ago by a small group of Czech MPs led by Interior Minister Jan Hamáček, this money (about 700 million crowns) would be divided into two halves, with one half going to the Zlín region’s local governments and the other half going directly to the people impacted by this disaster. With this law supported by both the opposition and the governing coalition, it seems that the victims of the explosion may get their compensation as soon as Russia pays Czechia the money.

Daniel Howard

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