Russia’s move to label Czech Republic, US as ‘unfriendly’ states draws EU criticism

Moscow has formally designated the Czech Republic and the United States as “unfriendly states” and restricted the number of staff employed by their embassies, prompting criticism from Brussels.

The Russian government on Friday released a list of “unfriendly states” said to have carried out “unfriendly actions” against Russia, Russian citizens or Russian entities, according to state news agency TASS. The two countries are so far the only ones on the list.

The U.S. will now be banned from hiring local staff for its embassy, while the Czech embassy is allowed to employ only 19.

European Council President Charles Michel slammed the Russian move as “another escalatory step” that “undermines diplomatic relations.”

“Efforts to divide the EU are in vain,” he added, while calling on Russia “to fully respect the Vienna Convention,” the international treaty on diplomatic relations.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš thanked Michel for his support and expressed hope that, during the next EU leaders’ summit, European countries will “show that the EU is united and strong.”

The Czech foreign affairs ministry also denounced the Russian move, writing: “We consider this course of action by the Russian Federation to be another step towards the escalation of relations not only with the Czech Republic, but also with the EU and its allies.”

Moscow’s move comes amid a significant deterioration in ties between Russia and the Czech Republic after Prague accused the Kremlin of being behind a 2014 blast at an ammunition depot. Tensions between Russia and the U.S. have also grown after Washington imposed fresh sanctions last month.

A spokesperson for the Russian government told state news agency TASS that Moscow remained “read[y] for dialogue.”



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